One of the first relaxation tapes I ever owned was a small, brightly colored cassette, that featured relaxation exercises and creative visualization techniques for children. At a time when anything vaguely alternative was dismissed sniffily as ‘new age,’ my Mother believed that these tapes would help me to feel happier, more content and lull me to sleep easier. I was a child of a nervous disposition to begin with and one who feared the dark, hence the landing light was left on all night with no exceptions. Tired of the constant battle and, I suspect, the rising electricity bill she popped the cassette in my purple karaoke machine and bid me listen. At first I heard nothing, and then there was the sound of splashing ocean waves, the call of wild sea birds and then a soft, lilting voice and sounds of children’s laughter. I was carried away by the warmth of their voices and, feeling safe, fell into a relaxed, deep sleep. As a child, I didn’t know that as ASMR was a recognised neurological effect. However, I did know that I felt comforted by people who sounded kind and caring, something that would stay with me long into adulthood.
Today ASMR is used for all types of reasons, and you only have to take a look at the community to see that the whispers are starting to go viral. However, many ASMRtists including Tony Bomboni and WhispersRed ASMR produce amazing content that is aimed specifically at children. Toys and games are featured alongside songs, stories and calming sounds. This content is not only relaxing children, and their frazzled parents, but allows them to pause and unwind thus acting as a gentle gateway into the bedtime routine. Due to the rise in interactive technology, today’s children are more than familiar with screens and scrolling. Thanks to mobile and digital technology it is possible to create tailored content that builds confidence, helps to overcome fears and teaches the child that we are all ‘special snowflakes’. It would assist them to see that it is okay to be different, because everyone is, and that everyone excels in something, even if they are not quite sure what that may be yet.
Through the unique format of ASMR, children would be able to understand and interpret emotions on their level, something that adults often struggle with simply because psychologically our emotions have become more complex over time. Children, just like anyone else, strongly rely on human emotional connection and, similarly to adults who are socially isolated there are children who feel the same way. For those children who feel unwilling, or unable to confide in their parents. The natural pauses in between the interactions may allow the child to practice what they need to without feeling fear, pressure or judgement until they feel ready to open up in a ‘live’ situation. The ASMRtist acts as a lovely virtual friend who can play with, inspire or educate through simple videos. I am certainly not advocating that children spend more time in front of screens, but a short video before a bedtime story watched with a parent might help to soothe both parties. Over time, it may encourage further honest parent/child dialogue and allow parents to rediscover and re-engage with the simple joys that are scattered throughout childhood.
It is interesting that one of the simplest and most popular triggers are what I fondly refer to as ‘throwback tingles’. Videos that take us back to childhood, into the sheer bliss of story time, the quiet interactions and sounds of the classroom including detention. Even the long gone bedtime routine that we once all had. The sounds and sights of retro toys, party games and even visits to the doctor, dentist and school nurse.
These clips allow us valuable space to reflect, remembering a time when stress was making sure that you had done your homework, trying not missing the school bus or wondering if your crush would smile at you that day. Today we are connected with the world like never before, it becomes harder to turn away from endless information that is bombarded at you and just breathe. Children need to know that it is fine to switch off, relax and enjoy precious quality time with family and friends, so I really believe that ASMR is an excellent tool for getting them into that mindset. Finally, while I was doing research for this article I came across some wonderful ASMR videos for children, by children, that are super cute so I just had to share them!
(Image used under Creative Commons license. Credit to NNelumba.)