Reminiscing about the good old days when we were growing up is a memory trip well worth taking, when trying to understand the issues facing the children of today. A mere 20 years ago, children used to play outside all day, riding bikes, playing sports and building forts. Masters of imaginary games, children of the past created their own form of play that didn’t require costly equipment or parental supervision. Children of the past moved… a lot, and their sensory world was nature based and simple. In the past, family time was often spent doing chores, and children had expectations to meet on a daily basis. The dining room table was a central place where families came together to eat and talk about their day, and after dinner became the center for baking, crafts and homework.

Today’s families are different. Technology’s impact on the 21st century family is fracturing its very foundation, and causing a disintegration of core values that long ago were what held families together. Juggling work, home and community lives, parents now rely heavily on communication, information and transportation technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. Entertainment technology (TV, internet, videogames, iPods) has advanced so rapidly, that families have scarcely noticed the significant impact and changes to their family structure and lifestyles. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary aged children use on average 8 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75% of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms, and 50% of North American homes have the TV on all day. Add emails, cell phones, internet surfing, and chat lines, and we begin to see the pervasive aspects of technology on our home lives and family milieu. Gone is dining room table conversation, replaced by the “big screen” and take out. Children now rely on technology for the majority of their play, grossly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. Sedentary bodies bombarded with chaotic sensory stimulation, are resulting in delays in attaining child developmental milestones, with subsequent impact on basic foundation skills for achieving literacy. Hard wired for high speed, today’s young are entering school struggling with self regulation and attention skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom.

So what is the impact of technology on the developing child? Children’s developing sensory and motor systems have biologically not evolved to accommodate this sedentary, yet frenzied and chaotic nature of today’s technology. The impact of rapidly advancing technology on the developing child has seen an increase of physical, psychological and behavior disorders that the health and education systems are just beginning to detect, much less understand. Child obesity and diabetes are now national epidemics in both Canada and the US. Diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders can be causally linked to technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate. An urgent closer look at the critical factors for meeting developmental milestones, and the subsequent impact of technology on those factors, would assist parents, teachers and health professionals to better understand the complexities of this issue, and help create effective strategies to reduce technology use. The three critical factors for healthy physical and psychological child development are movement, touch and connection to other humans. Movement, touch and connection are forms of essential sensory input that are integral for the eventual development of a child’s motor and attachment systems. When movement, touch and connection are deprived, devastating consequences occur.

Young children require 3-4 hours per day of active rough and tumble play to achieve adequate sensory stimulation to their vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems for normal development. The critical period for attachment development is 0-7 months, where the infant-parent bond is best facilitated by close contact with the primary parent, and lots of eye contact. These types of sensory inputs ensure normal development of posture, bilateral coordination, optimal arousal states and self regulation necessary for achieving foundation skills for eventual school entry. Infants with low tone, toddlers failing to reach motor milestones, and children who are unable to pay attention or achieve basic foundation skills for literacy, are frequent visitors to pediatric physiotherapy and occupational therapy clinics. The use of safety restraint devices such as infant bucket seats and toddler carrying packs and strollers, have further limited movement, touch and connection, as have TV and videogame overuse. Many of today’s parents perceive outdoor play is ‘unsafe’, further limiting essential developmental components usually attained in outdoor rough and tumble play. Dr. Ashley Montagu, who has extensively studied the developing tactile sensory system, reports that when infants are deprived of human connection and touch, they fail to thrive and many eventually die. Dr. Montagu states that touch deprived infants develop into toddlers who exhibit excessive agitation and anxiety, and may become depressed by early childhood.

As children are connecting more and more to technology, society is seeing a disconnect from themselves, others and nature. As little children develop and form their identities, they often are incapable of discerning whether they are the “killing machine” seen on TV and in videogames, or just a shy and lonely little kid in need of a friend. TV and videogame addiction is causing an irreversible worldwide epidemic of mental and physical health disorders, yet we all find excuses to continue. Where 100 years ago we needed to move to survive, we are now under the assumption we need technology to survive. The catch is that technology is killing what we love the most…connection with other human beings. The critical period for attachment formation is 0 – 7 months of age. Attachment or connection is the formation of a primary bond between the developing infant and parent, and is integral to that developing child’s sense of security and safety. Healthy attachment formation results in a happy and calm child. Disruption or neglect of primary attachment results in an anxious and agitated child. Family over use of technology is gravely affecting not only early attachment formation, but also impacting negatively on child psychological and behavioral health.

Further analysis of the impact of technology on the developing child indicates that while the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and attachment systems are under stimulated, the visual and auditory sensory systems are in “overload”. This sensory imbalance creates huge problems in overall neurological development, as the brain’s anatomy, chemistry and pathways become permanently altered and impaired. Young children who are exposed to violence through TV and videogames are in a high state of adrenalin and stress, as the body does not know that what they are watching is not real. Children who overuse technology report persistent body sensations of overall “shaking”, increased breathing and heart rate, and a general state of “unease”. This can best be described as a persistent hypervigalent sensory system, still “on alert” for the oncoming assault from videogame characters. While the long term effects of this chronic state of stress in the developing child are unknown, we do know that chronic stress in adults results in a weakened immune system and a variety of serious diseases and disorders. Prolonged visual fixation on a fixed distance, two dimensional screen grossly limits ocular development necessary for eventual printing and reading. Consider the difference between visual location on a variety of different shaped and sized objects in the near and far distance (such as practiced in outdoor play), as opposed to looking at a fixed distance glowing screen. This rapid intensity, frequency and duration of visual and auditory stimulation results in a “hard wiring” of the child’s sensory system for high speed, with subsequent devastating effects on a child’s ability to imagine, attend and focus on academic tasks. Dr. Dimitri Christakis found that each hour of TV watched daily between the ages of 0 and 7 years equated to a 10% increase in attention problems by age seven years.

In 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that children less than two years of age should not use any technology, yet toddlers 0 to 2 years of age average 2.2 hours of TV per day. The Academy further recommended that children older than two should restrict usage to one hour per day if they have any physical, psychological or behavioral problems, and two hours per day maximum if they don’t, yet parents of elementary children are allowing 8 hours per day. France has gone so far as to eliminate all “baby TV” due to the detrimental effects on child development. How can parents continue to live in a world where they know what is bad for their children, yet do nothing to help them? It appears that today’s families have been pulled into the “Virtual Reality Dream”, where everyone believes that life is something that requires an escape. The immediate gratification received from ongoing use of TV, videogame and internet technology, has replaced the desire for human connection.

It’s important to come together as parents, teachers and therapists to help society “wake up” and see the devastating effects technology is having not only on our child’s physical, psychological and behavioral health, but also on their ability to learn and sustain personal and family relationships. While technology is a train that will continually move forward, knowledge regarding its detrimental effects, and action taken toward balancing the use of technology with exercise and family time, will work toward sustaining our children, as well as saving our world. While no one can argue the benefits of advanced technology in today’s world, connection to these devices may have resulted in a disconnection from what society should value most, children. Rather than hugging, playing, rough housing, and conversing with children, parents are increasingly resorting to providing their children with more videogames, TV’s in the car, and the latest iPods and cell phone devices, creating a deep and widening chasm between parent and child.

Cris Rowan is an impassioned occupational therapist who has first-hand understanding and knowledge of how technology can cause profound changes in a child’s development, behavior and their ability to learn. Cris has a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and is a SIPT certified sensory integration specialist. Cris is a member in good standing with the BC College of Occupational Therapists, and an approved provider with the American Occupational Therapy Association, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, and Autism Community Training. For the past fifteen years, Cris has specialized in pediatric rehabilitation, working for over a decade in the Sunshine Coast School District in British Columbia.

Cris is CEO of Zone’in Programs Inc. offering products, workshops and training to improve child health and enhance academic performance. Cris designed Zone’in, Move’in, Unplug’in and Live’in educational products for elementary children to address the rise in developmental delays, behavior disorders, and technology overuse. Cris has performed over 200 Foundation Series Workshops on topics such as sensory integration and attention, motor development and literacy, attachment formation and addictions, early intervention, technology overuse, media literacy programs, and school environmental design for the 21st century for teachers, parents and health professionals throughout North America. Cris has recently created Zone’in Training Programs to train other pediatric occupational therapists to deliver these integral workshops in their own community. Cris is an expert reviewer for the Canadian Family Physician Journal, authors the monthly Zone’in Development Series Newsletter and is author of the following initiatives: Unplug – Don’t Drug, Creating Sustainable Futures Program, and Linking Corporations to Community. Cris is author of a forthcoming book Disconnect to Reconnect – How to manage balance between activities children need for growth and success with technology use.

Like any paperwork that accompanies electronics portable players, listings on eBay and instruction manuals are chock full of jargon. And, as a DVD player retailer it is your job to understand what all the acronyms stand for, and what all the buttons do. But why? You might ask. There are two simple reasons:

1) You don’t want to look like a complete amateur in front of tech savvy shoppers.
2) You will need to be able to explain what everything does in clear simple language for novices who don’t really understand what they’re buying.

So, to help you out we’ve put together a list of almost all of the terms you are likely to come across when selling portable DVDs online.

Media Formats

MPEG 1, 2, 3 & 4: Audio and video compression standards set by the Moving Pictures Export Group. The numerals refer to versions with MPEG 1 being the 1st and MPEG 4 being the latest, MPEG 4 is probably best known as the MP4 format which is used on MP4 players.

MP3: This is perhaps the most well recognized audio format designed by the Moving Pictures Expert Group. It is a standard for audio files compression.

WMA: Windows Media Audio is an audio data compression standard developed by Microsoft but played widely in many MP3 and MP4 players from China wholesale manufacturers. The video version of this format is WMV. DiVX: A compression technique that converts long video sequences into smaller segments without losing too much detail. It uses the MPEG-4 compression standard.

XVID: This open source compression technique competes with DiVX for market share and also compresses video according to the MPEG-4 standard. The difference between the two is DiVX is proprietary while XVID is distributed under Gnu or is free to use.

JPEG: This is format used for photographs and is used by most digital cameras. Having this lets the user playback pictures from the camera on the portable DVD screen.

Disc Formats

CD: The shorter, better known nickname for the Compact Disc Read Only Memory (CD-ROM). A CD is a pre-pressed compact disc that contains data which can be read by a computer and a number of other players but cannot be written over.

CD-RW: This is a CD which can be recorded onto and read many times. The CD-RW can also be used to store different formats of content. This is a little like a blank VCR of the computer world.

CD-R: A CD-R (recordable) allows for content to be written once and read many times. This type of disc stores all types of media files – this is a little like a blank VCR that you record onto and then push the tabs out of to stop it from being recorded on again. Short for Video Compact Disc. The VCD is a format for storing video on CDs. The VCD is like a VCR tape in that you cannot skip chapters or view rich data, just fast forward and rewind.

SVCD: The Super Video Compact Disk. While this successor to the VCD was meant to challenge the DVD format it doesn’t have the quality and storage capacity of the DVD and never really took off. DVD: Digital Video Discs. They look like CDs but store six times more data and can display video in chapters.

DVD RW/ DVD+RW/ DVD-RW: Essentially three variations of exactly the same thing. A DVD RW is like a CD RW in that data can be read off them and written on them many times. The + and – and competing standards, though it is generally accepted that + is superior and therefore the industry standard for rewritable disks.

TV Encoders

SECAM: This analog color encoding system was developed in France for broadcast television. You can still find it used in France, parts of Eastern Europe some former French colonies. PAL: Phase Alternating Line is an analog color encoding system used in broadcast television is large parts of the world. DVDs with PAL encoding will only play on players that can decode this signal and PAL and NTSC color encoding systems give security professionals and car reversing camera installers no end of headaches.

NTSC: This analog color encoding system was developed in the USA for broadcast television and quickly earned the nickname Never Twice the Same Color. It is Primarily used in the US, the countries’ bordering it, US territories and parts of South America.

ATSC: The Advanced Television Systems Committee standard defines a digital broadcast standard for the US, Canada, Mexico and one or two other territories.

DVB: The Digital Video Broadcasting standard is (or will be) the industry standard for more than 130 countries. It is used for satellite, terrestrial and digital terrestrial for portables (including mobile broadcasts).

External Ports

AV Out: Audio/Video output point for connecting DVD player to home TV, car system etc. AV In: Audio/Video input point to connect external devices like a video cam/ gaming unit direct to the portable DVD player

VGA Out: Video Graphics Array is a type of port that was first introduced in computers but can be now found in many devices with a separate LCD display.

USB: The Universal Serial Bus is probably the most generic input you will see on computers. With the USB you can hook up a whole host of devices to the DVD Player including mobile phones, laptops, computers, mp3 and MP4 players etc.

SD/MMC/MS Card Reader: Secure Digital/Multimedia Card and Memory Stick are all types of flash memory used in portable electronic devices from MP3/MP4 players, digital cameras, camcorders, mobile phones etc.

HDMI: High-Definition Multimedia Interface is an audio/video interface for transmitting uncompressed digital data. HDMI connects digital audio/video sources such as set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc players, personal computers (PCs), video game consoles (such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), and AV receivers to compatible digital audio devices, computer monitors, and digital televisions

S-Video: Separate Video is an analog video signal that carries the video data as two separate signals, lumen (luminance) and chroma (color). S-Video is a midpoint between standard definition and High Definition and S-Video carries standard definition video (typically at 480i or 576i resolution), but does not carry audio on the same cable.

Miscellaneous Terms

Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio is the fractional relation of the width of an image(or screen) compared to its height. The two most common aspect ratios in home video are 4:3 (also known as 4×3, 1.33:1, or standard) and 16:9.

Screen resolution: The screen resolution refers to the number of rows and columns of pixels in the LCD display. A screen with a resolution of 800×600 will have 800 pixels horizontally and 600 pixels vertically in every picture.