Make believe narratives take a front seat, the dress up cupboard explodes open, the cubby house is centre stage and the backyard cricket plays its’ last over as the sun takes a bow. The innocent sound of children playing together is something that a parent misses as their children grow older. But is this the sound of most houses today?
One has to question whether the influx of electronic devices has become an ‘easy option’ when children are seeking entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, the advancement in technology is a remarkable goalpost that one is truly privileged to engage with. However has the line been drawn too far away from ‘play based fun’ and too close to having a ‘personal entertainer’ on tap?
It is an interesting phenomenon that when children have no technological option availed; they readily engage with the outdoors or bring their toys to life. It can be observed that creativity and imagination are ignited together with collaborative problem solving and communication with other children. Compare these higher order thinking and communication skills to a device that sustains a child in a sedentary position for long periods, with their eyes consumed on visual images that are manipulated with minimal hand movements. One may have to question a healthy balance of choices.
Researchers are also starting to clang their alarm bells. In 2014, Prigg reported results from a recent US nationwide survey which polled 350 parents concerning the play habits of their children aged 12 and below. These results were significant noting that ‘touchscreen devices got the most overall playtime’ and ‘over 70% of children in all income levels are living in homes with smartphones, and over 55% with tablets’. Interestingly although the research acknowledged that devices support learning, it was foregrounded that from the child’s perspective ‘gaming is the number one activity they want’ which was reflected by the game playing data being over 60% for 0 to 12 year olds.
As parents it is important to make decisions based on what resounds as wise and healthy for their children. As a society let us not throw away the potential experiences that play based entertainment and outdoor sporting activities provide for the ease of an electrical device. Likewise let us not consider that electronic devices are something to be completely avoided, unless this sits within your belief and value system. There is a balance to consider that recognises the value of both ‘old fashioned’ play and interacting with electrical devices. One could suggest that there is a need for parents to role model ethical decision making for their children where they provide opportunities for play that is varied, creative and accommodates a myriad of modes.
“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
Proverbs 24:3-4 (ESV)
Prigg, M. (2014). How the ipad replayed the toychest: Researchers find children play with touchscreens more than traditional toys. Daily Mail Australia.