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Episode Summary

In this episode, Zach talks with Dr. Kathleen Keefe-Cooperman, an associate professor at LIU Post and a clinical psychologist for the Committee on Preschool Special Education in the New York City area. They discuss the joy of toddlers and the effect of COVID-19 on evaluations.

Dr. Keefe-Cooperman also shares the technology gap between adults and children, common misconceptions about screen time and mistakes parents make with educational software. To close, they talk about ways to regain lost focus and the transforming power of gratefulness.

Episode Notes

Children See the World in a Different Way

  • The mind is impressionable and functionally different at a young age
    • (3:12) – “They’re the greatest age. Everything is magical to them and every day is new.”

Quarantine Has Led to a Breakdown of Skills

  • An effective evaluation now requires a different approach
    • (4:37) – “I quickly found out with telehealth that they don’t have the attention to wait around because the parents have prepped them. If you do the social history first, by the time you do the testing, the child’s done.”
  • Working memory has suffered from a lack of interaction
    • (5:20) – “They’re no longer able to do that because I think they haven’t been in circle time. They haven’t been in structured activities where demands are put on them like that now in 6 months.”

Technology Changes How Our Minds Work

  • Today’s children don’t know a world without technology
  • There’s a knowledge gap between children and adults
    • ( 6:17) – “Children are digital natives who have never known life without technology, while many teachers have never experienced digital environments as young learners in the classroom, and they lack a personal reference point to look back on when teaching.”- Zach quoting the publication Children as Digital Natives
  • Screens delay the development of certain physical skills
    • (7:24) – “We found that the kids who are on the smart devices had lower visual-spatial functioning. They had difficulty doing puzzles. The smart devices are all one finger, so you may look like you’re doing visual-spatial, but you’re not.”
  • Technology use is tied to environment
    • (7:46) – “If people liked technology, adults, a lot of them thought that smart devices were wonderful for children. If they didn’t like technology, they didn’t like them for children.”
  • Earlier usage creates a second nature
    • (8:04) – “If you give a one-year old, or a two-year old an iPad or a phone, they can just navigate it. It’s instinctual for them.”

Well-rounded Learning is Essential to Proper Development

  • Lower functioning areas indicate a need
    • (9:37) – “It sounds like it’s more of a 2D versus 3D spatial referencing problem than it is an intelligence problem.”Zach
  • Physical skills still matter
    • (9:53) – “As long as you have to undo a lock, or turn a doorknob, it’s a three-dimensional world.”
  • Balance is key when it comes to technology
    • (10:00) – “It’s perfect for kids to be on smart devices for a small amount of time every day, but people need to offset it.”
  • The survival mindset has increased during quarantine

Proceed With Caution When Using Screens

  • Good intentions don’t always lead to good results
    • (14:37) – “It’s almost a false sense of security that parents feel when they’re working with a smart device, thinking that they’re doing something good for their child and in reality, it’s very limited what the child’s getting from it.”
    • (19:02) – “When you said that you will have parents walk into an app store and say ‘oh, it’s educational. It’s fine, my kids can use it.’ It reminds me of the ‘fat-free’ label in the food industry where it’s like ‘oh, it’s fat-free. I can have as much of it as I want,’ but you don’t realize that there are 35 grams of sugar in a single yogurt and that’s why it tastes so good.”Zach
  • Effective apps are challenging and goal-based, but many are not structured this way
  • Success is measured by profit, not the stated function
    • (17:06) – “The app’s goal is not primarily to make you a better person, it is to keep you on the app.”Zach
  • Many tech executives don’t give their children heavy screen time

Our Social Behavior is Shifting

  • Screens have become a primary factor in shaping how we act
    • (18:01) – “I’ve seen a lot of kids when you take away the phone, or the iPad, they just lose it completely emotionally and can’t be calmed down. It’s almost like an early addiction.”
    • (18:26) – “Sometimes, I’m standing in line somewhere. I feel awkward because I’m not looking at my phone, or doing something.” Zach
  • Increased access can lead to a positive outcome for some students
    • (21:19) – “For kids who didn’t have access to preschool, not a lot of toys in the home, they seem to be mastering academic type concepts better because they had access to the material via the smart device.”

Resilience is Essential Through Adversity

  • Reminders are habit forming
    • (26:35) – “It makes you feel really crappy if you have a notification in your calendar and you’re forced to look at it and then you don’t do it.”Zach
  • Structure can keep you grounded and sane
  • Gratitude changes your mind on a mental and chemical level
    • (29:53) – “It’s really hard to be in a bad mood and be grateful at the same time. I think it’s impossible.”Zach
  • Positivity gets easier through practice
  • The pandemic has altered our sleep habits
    • (33:06) – “Everybody’s sort of on weekend time.”
  • Natural remedies like sleep, diet and exercise are more sustainable than medication

Don’t Surrender to Changing Dynamics

  • COVID-19 has led to a widespread social upheaval
    • (35:31) – “Right now it’s really hard, the kids are ruling the house. I have two older kids, and when they were home I think they even unionized, and I didn’t stand a chance.”
  • 1-2-3 Magic Parenting is an excellent tool to regain control
  • Outside advice can be insightful
    • (38:54) – “Podcasting is not soundbites. You really get a feel for how people like you do their jobs. How they’ve learned the things that they’ve learned and all the value they bring to the table.”Zach


Committee on Preschool Special Education (NYC)

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More on Dr. Keefe-Cooperman

Dr. Kathleen Keefe-Cooperman is a licensed New York State Psychologist and an Associate Professor of Counseling and Development at LIU Post. She has a Masters degree in counseling from Pace University, and a Masters degree in clinical practices in psychology and a Doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Hartford. Dr. Keefe-Cooperman specializes in the behavioral patterns of young children and works with the Committee on Preschool Special Education in the New York City Area.