I am a huge advocate for good old fashioned activities when it comes to kids. I’m the first one to cheerleader for less screen time, more tree time. Less technology more “play-thology.” Less PlayStation, more imagination. I believe in development and learning through physical, real time interaction, creativity and play. I believe children should play in isolation but also in groups. They should be exposed to nature, music and art. They should be given opportunity to play (indoors and out), explore and experience the natural world and each other.
In our busy lives today, it is all too easy to just pass our child (or even) toddler the iPad or iPhone to entertain, pacify or appease them. And slowly but surely, they are becoming as hooked to screen time as we are.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying technology is (all) bad for children (or for us.) Definitely not. Technological developments has revolutionized education: from teacher-student communication, broad (international) audience reach, access to a wide range of research information at the click of a button. (More benefits here.)
There are many studies on the cognitive benefits of playing video games such as strategizing, decision making and concentration. (Read more here.)
There are wonderful apps for tablets and smart phones that provide stimulation and support to children from early learning to high school and beyond. Everything from early learning apps that provide engaging and age appropriate ways to learn shapes, the alphabet and numbers to tutor apps for high school children to get expert help and many more! (See some apps here.)
But engaging too much with technology, irrespective of our age, does have negative side effects on us. It isolates us, we start to lack social skills, it warps our sense of reality. In extreme cases, depression, obesity and bullying has also been linked to excessive exposure. (Read more here.) This Psychology Today article is specifically about the alarming way that technology is affecting the way children think and focus.
Ultimately, I think, it is all about balance. I have often read (and this New York Times article confirms it) that Steve Jobs, himself, would strictly limit how much technology his kids used at home, including his own inventions: the iPad and iPhone. I believe in this approach, for ourselves, but more so for our kids. If we don’t monitor screen time, its harm will SURELY far outweigh its very legitimate, wonderful benefits.
Enjoy and apply technology but make sure you find activities during school term time and holidays (when they are so quick to complain of boredom and run for the computer or iPad) which engage the whole child: mind and body! Activities to help develop social and communication skills: here.