Traditional Play Over Tablets and Touchscreens
By: Roshni Shewakramani
Society has become obsessed with consumer electronics, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that today’s children are so ‘tech-savvy’; most toddlers prefer screens over teddy bears and they have no problem swiping and tapping on their tablets, which they’d have learnt to master before they could even recite the alphabet!
Being hooked on innovation is good, but getting addicted to electronic gadgets is another story, especially when it concerns children. While there may be some who would argue that there’s no definitive study which cites the harmful effects of technology over younger children, as parents, we’ll always be concerned over the possible effects of touchscreens and videos over our little ones, especially during the crucial stages of learning and development.
Modern gadgets and children
The good old childhood days as we know them were filled with games, read-aloud sessions, outdoor play, riding bikes, hide and seek, playing freeze tag and a lot more – activities which have now become mere trips down memory lane. Children moved a lot and they were creative with their hands and imaginations, only until technology took a hold of most of their daily lives.
Sure, it wouldn’t do any harm to be technologically-savvy in this ultra-modern age, but there’s no denying the fact that there are adverse effects to the excessive usage of media among children which have been well-studied throughout the years.
Some studies have found that when children were overexposed to technology, they became more at risk of developing intellectual and learning disabilities, a shorter attention span, as well as other problematic behaviours.
Experts agree that early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli (or lack thereof), so excessive virtual world interactions – without the appropriate sensory experiences to learn things – would surely hamper the progress of knowledge.
There are also concerns regarding the effects of an addiction to technology on children’s health and well-being. Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle at an early age are major factors which tend to contribute to a rise in childhood obesity rates.
Screen-addicted children are also likely to develop poor eyesight at an early age, while delayed bedtimes caused by an obsession with gadgets can lead to sleep deprivation. The list could go on…
Tech detox tips for the family
Understandably, the ubiquity of handheld devices and electronics in today’s society makes it difficult for parents to completely ban children kids from using technology. It’s inevitable: A child must learn to use computers and tablets in order to develop some kind of technological proficiency to prepare them for the academic demands awaiting them at school. So what’s a parent to do?
The key is to make face-to-face interaction and “unplugged” play the highest priority for families. Spending quality time with your children will definitely bring them away from screen and help them develop behaviours which immensely contribute to their growth and well-being.
There are plenty of ways to break the tech-gadget habit of children. Parents can slow their busy schedules down a bit and increase playtime. Engaging them in playful surprises and joining in pretend play helps encourage kids’ creativity and imagination. One of the best ways to encourage imaginative play is to offer appropriate props and items which would help stir your child’s imagination including role-play toy sets and mock adult-life experiences.
Instil in them the love of reading by giving them age-appropriate books. This will surely encourage the development of language skills, stimulate the development of brain connections and boost their cognitive skills and creativity. You can also stock up on traditional toys which promote thought and interaction: blocks, pull toys, musical boxes, rattles and so on, plus puzzles and other educational toys which promote problem-solving skills.
Outdoor play, country walks, bike rides and trips to the park are also all-time favourites, especially since they encourage a lot of healthy, free movement. Don’t forget making a game out of household chores – these will not only instil the value of helpfulness and responsibility in them, they’re also powerful outlets which promote positive development in all sorts of areas!
Simple tasks like folding the laundry, setting the table and putting away groceries can get so much fun when everyone in the family is involved. The bottom line is, then and now, active interaction and family togetherness have had a positive impact on children and that is precisely what they need in order to learn and grow.