"Play is the highest form of research" Albert Einstein

"Play is the highest form of research" Albert Einstein

Dr Jim’s Points to Ponder - Live Play vs Screen Play 

It was not that long ago when parents and educators were worried about how much TV kids watched.  We were concerned about the commercials children saw on TV and we feared our kids would become “Couch Potatoes”.  How things have changed.  

We are in the middle of a technology transformation that is exploding at a mind-boggling rate.   Instead of how much TV time, we are now worried about the “Screen Time” on tablets and smart phones that our children are exposed to with violent video games and inappropriate images being an even greater concern.

The digital transformation has happened so fast that we have had little time to consider the short and long term consequences on our children or for our family. 

Recently I read that more than 3/4’s of iPad “Apps” are designed for young, pre-school aged children.  Many of those come with "In App" purchases shamelessly luring children into buying digital coins, new lives, or new stories.  It may seem impressive to an adult that a young child can interact with a digital tablet or smart phone, but is it healthy? The research as to how this new technology is affecting children is very limited.  Although the research base is growing, there are no valid longitudinal studies that measure the effects of extended screen time on child development.

However, psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham has treated a number of children for "technology addiction".  In a recent book he stated: "Tablets and phones have replaced the TV as a way of keeping children entertained, yet these devices could be damaging to a child's health potentially leading to technology addiction."

Although we don't know the long term effects of children interacting with technology, what we do know is that children need to play. Numerous research studies over the years have shown the vital importance of play to the healthy development of a child.  Even the ancient Greek philosopher Plato commented on the value of play. He knew that children learned best through physical play and hands-on experiences. His observation has been validated by modern research.  We know that to maximize brain development children need to use their senses, manipulate objects and “feel” the world around them.  "Screen time” takes time away from the types of experiential activities we know they need.  

“Live Play” is an amazingly imaginative activity.  Playing with sand, water, Legos, blocks, play dough, paints, and building materials encourage children to use their imagination and develop physical skills.  As students invent their own situations they learn to handle tasks and gain self-esteem. When children build and create with physical materials their brains construct the neural pathways necessary for academic learning and creativity.

“Screen Play” on computers, smart phones, and tablets can engage, distract, and amuse children.  An engaging game or movie can calm and focus a child’s attention for the short term.  But the damaging practice of handing a child an electronic device to distract or occupy him or her, can quickly become the norm for both the child, who looks to the device for happiness or distraction, and for parents who rely on “screens” to soothe and occupy their kids. 

Educators today also worry that many children are learning to manage their feelings and relationships by distraction, and that electronic devices and social media have become easy surrogates for the personal life experiences and private contemplation that children need to have to become happy adults. 

When we take the time to guide children to physical and creative play and help them make good choices about screen time we are maximizing their learning and their “happiness” potential. If we engage in play with them the joy, for both the adult and the child, will make it all worthwhile. 

So, as a parent, limit “Screen Play”, give your children plenty of opportunities for “Live Play”  and find at least ten to fifteen minutes a day (more if you can) to engage in real live play with your child.  I predict that when you do, you and your child will be happier and healthier, your children will learn more easily and they will be better adjusted young people and adults.

Posted on 07 Jun 2018, 20:39 - Category: Learning

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