Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The loss of play. . .

http://brightsong.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/play.jpgAccording to some significant voices, the advent of the smart phone and its use among teens has dramatic correlation with the rise of loneliness, depression, despair, fear, attention disorders, sleep deprivation, etc... and the loss of significant friendships off screen.

Of course, we can blame the technology -- an easy thing to do.  But the issue lies with parents.  Parents are themselves distracted by the digital technology and they find the children's preoccupation with the same screens a convenient way to placate their children.  Perhaps the most significant aspect of it all is the loss of play.  Children spend their playtime before screens and not individually, with family members, or with peers.  The kind of play offered by technology is one that tends to isolate, to be sure, but even more concerning is the fact that so much of this play is adult themed.  When children as young as 8-10 years old being given entrance into the digital world with their own smart phones, this loss of play and this introduction of adult choices, adult fears, and adult problems into their lives effectively steals a childhood and deprives them of play.  This is happening as adults increasingly find their own recreation time either glued to the screens or defined by screens (video games).  Yet it is not an answer technology can provide.  It is a problem which requires parenting choices and some leadership from mom and dad.  Yet, with both parents working or in the growing segment of a single parent home, the prospect of this leadership from the parents may be slim.  Are we so addicted to our screens that we are controlled by them (instead of us controlling them)?

Strangely, in an age of helicopter parents, the answers appear to be more technology.  Cameras to watch them at home and even in school. . . tracking apps to follow where they go and what they do. . . and the like. . .  But our children do not need more watching, they need more interaction with adults without screens and more interaction with peers without screens.  What they need and what is our responsibility to give them are:
  • Available parents who give their attention to their children
  • Clearly defined limits with both guidance and consequences
  • Real responsibilities at home -- dare I say it?  Chores!
  • Attention to both their nutrition and their sleep habits
  • Physical activity and time spent out of the house or school (recess and play)
  • Creative play that requires them to be inventive
  • Social interaction with their peers, 
  • Opportunities for unstructured times without catering to their claims of boredom.
The last thing our children need is to be thrust with adult choices, adult problems, and adult fears.  They will face these soon enough and we have done a grave disservice to them by moving the time of these adult style burdens earlier and earlier in their lives.  We don't need to rescue them from themselves as much as we need to rescue them from us!

1 comment:

Ted Badje said...

Being connected to digital devices all the time stunts social and emotional growth for children. My wife, as a teacher, can attest to this.