Fewer children playing: Will technology make us all robots?

23 Dec

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Natural disasters and hurricanes like “Katrina” and “Sandy” demonstrate how dependent modern society is on a power source and how dependent modern society is on it’s technology. Back in the day, when there were no IPods, or IPads people were forced to do old school things like talk to each other and play cards or board games. Helen Robin and her kids have written the great article, 100 Things To Do With Kids During a Power Outage. Among her suggestions are:

1. Read

2. Make up stories

3. Mad Libs

4. Write a book

5. Play dolls

6. Play school

7. Paint our toenails

8. Paint our brother’s toenails ;)

9. Make puppets

10. Have a “Bear Hunt”

11. Play cards

12. Read books outloud

13. Play hide and seek

14. Play Hucklebucklebeanstalk

15. Have a scavenger hunt

16. Hide something sweet and create a “treasure” map for the kids to solve

17. Learn Morse Code

18. Invent your own code

19. Paint family portraits

20. Build a house of cards

21. Learn the state capitals                                         http://rochester.kidsoutandabout.com/content/100-things-do-kids-during-power-outage

These suggestions are certainly useful in times where the only light comes from candles or flashlights. A study from the United Kingdom suggests that too much technology might not be beneficial for children.

Graeme Patton of the U.K.’s Telegraph writes in the article, Overexposure to technology ‘makes children miserable’:

Young people exposed to modern technology for more than four hours a day are less likely to display high levels of “wellbeing” than those limiting access to less than 60 minutes, it emerged…

Young people’s brains were failing to develop properly after being overexposed to the cyber world at an early age, she claimed.

According to figures quoted by the ONS, almost 85 per cent of children born in 2000/01 have access to a computer and the internet at home. Some 12 per cent have their own computer and the same proportion had a personal mobile phone.

Separate data showed that six per cent of children aged 10-to-15 used online chatrooms or played games consoles for more than four hours on an average school day. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9636862/Overexposure-to-technology-makes-children-miserable.html

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita of education at Lesley University and author of “ Taking Back Childhoodand writes about the value of play in the Washington Post.

In Is technology sapping children’s creativity?

Kids need first-hand engagement — they need to manipulate objects physically, engage all their senses, and move and interact with the 3-dimensional world. This is what maximizes their learning and brain development. A lot of the time children spend with screens takes time away from the activities we know they need for optimal growth. We know that children today are playing less than kids played in the past…

The Importance of Play

Play is a remarkably creative process that fosters emotional health, imagination, original thinking, problem solving, critical thinking, and self-regulation. As children actively invent their own scenarios in play, they work their way through the challenges life presents and gain confidence and a sense of mastery. When they play with materials, children are building a foundation for understanding concepts and skills that form the basis for later academic learning.

And it’s not only concepts that children are learning as they play, they are learning how to learn: to take initiative, to ask questions, to create and solve their own problems. Open-ended materials such as blocks, play dough, art and building materials, sand and water encourage children to play creatively and in depth. Neuroscience tells us that as children play this way, connections and pathways in the brain become activated and then solidify.

Technology, Play, and Learning

What children see or interact with on the screen is only a representation of things in the real world. The screen symbols aren’t able to provide as full an experience for kids as the interactions they can have with real world people and things. And while playing games with apps and computers could be considered more active than TV viewing, it is still limited to what happens between the child and a device — it doesn’t involve the whole child’s body, brain, and senses. In addition, the activity itself and how to do it is already prescribed by a programmer. What the child does is play according to someone else’s rules and design. This is profoundly different from a child having an original idea to make or do something….

How Might Time on Screens Affect Relationships?

Quite a few years ago, I began noticing how easy it was for parents to turn to screens in challenging moments with their children. This first hit me when I saw a little girl who was in tears over saying goodbye to her good friend and her mom offered her a TV program to watch. Now today, there are almost endless opportunities to quiet our kids with entertaining games, apps, and screen time. But when we do that, are they missing out on the chance to feel, to argue, to sit in silence, to listen, to be?

Screens can occupy, distract, and entertain children for sure; the appealing game or show really “works” in the short term. But harmful habits set in early on both sides: for the child, learning to look outside of oneself for happiness or distraction in tough times; for parents, learning to rely on screens instead of our own ingenuity to soothe and occupy kids….

What Guidance Can We Find?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity recommend keeping children under the age of two as screen-free as possible and limiting screen time for older children. I think this is a standard we should aim for. And as we try to limit screen time, we can do a lot to foster our children’s play as well. Children need uninterrupted playtime every day. The chance to play with materials that are open-ended will encourage the deepest, most creative and expanded play possible….

….The fact that parents today have the option of so much technology can seem like both a gift and a curse. At certain times and in certain situations, when no other choice seems right, we can breathe a sigh of relief that we have a screen activity available to us. But at other times, we can agonize because our kids are begging for screen time and we want to see them engage in more beneficial activities. Trying to follow the AAP Guidelines is often challenging and takes a lot more effort than the “quick tech fix.” But remembering what we know about how kids learn and grow helps to guide us. And our own ingenuity and inventiveness as parents is the best and sometimes most untapped resource of all. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/is-technology-sapping-childrens-creativity/2012/09/12/10c63c7e-fced-11e1-a31e-804fccb658f9_blog.html

For many technology is seen as a possible way to increase their child’s IQ.

Alex Halperin writes in the Salon article, Personal tech upends the toy market:

Children have played with dolls for millenia. It was a good run.

Mattel is the maker of Barbie and Hot Wheels, but this year its top selling toy is a plastic cell phone case, according to the Financial Times (subscription required):

Whether a new Kindle Fire, or a hand-me-down iPad, analysts predict 2012 will be the year children as young as three-years-old will unwrap tablets at trendsetting rates. And that has the traditional toy companies scrambling to stay relevant.

“The top two guys, Mattel and Hasbro, they are terrified,” said Sean McGowan, managing director of equity research at Needham & Company, an investment banking firm. “They should be terrified, but the official party line is they’re not terrified.”Toymakers have long been aware of creeping digitization of playtime and the annoying acronym KGOY (“Kids getting older younger”) But they may have been slow to realize that personal technology might pose an existential threat to more analog toys. They’re trying to adapt:

This Christmas, [Hasbro] has high hopes for the reinvention of its popular 1990s plush toy, Furby. The new interactive version comes with a free mobile app that kids can use to feed Furby, and translate the things it says in “Furbish” to English. The toy is also built with artificial intelligence, so its behaviour changes depending on how it is treated, whether its tail is pulled or it is tickled.But even if this updated “hamster/owl creature” performs well this year it seems unlikely that toymakers will be able to get away with this kind of retread five years from now. “Everyone I know who has a kid under 10 has a tablet in the house,” a toy investor told the FT. “And that tablet is the babysitter.”

In our technology saturated age, children are developing an entirely different relationship to the physical world. This has implications that extend far beyond Christmas toy  sales figures to obesity and maybe even evolution. We don’t understand what will happen, but at least we have this cute viral video of a child frustrated with her maddeningly low-tech iPad (it’s what you’d call a magazine)…. http://www.salon.com/2012/12/23/personal_tech_upends_the_toy_market/

In the rush to produce baby Einsteins and child prodigies, perhaps we are missing the creativity that play activities by preschoolers produces.


The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development                http://msuextension.org/publications/HomeHealthandFamily/MT201003HR.pdf

Why Play Is Important For Child Development?  http://www.mychildhealth.net/why-play-is-important-for-child-development.html

Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills                                     http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19212514

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds

  1. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd,

  2. and the Committee on Communications,

  3. and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

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Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play for both children and parents, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. This report addresses a variety of factors that have reduced play, including a hurried lifestyle, changes in family structure, and increased attention to academics and enrichment activities at the expense of recess or free child-centered play. This report offers guidelines on how pediatricians can advocate for children by helping families, school systems, and communities consider how best to ensure that play is protected as they seek the balance in children’s lives to create the optimal developmental milieu. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182.full

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