My son is 4 years old now and he has been exposed to our tablet and the TV since the age of 6 months – in moderation. I hadn’t read all the bad press about these devices until a week ago and initially the guilt I felt for having exposed him early was enormous.
In case you have not read the cons of “screen time” basically in a nutshell, research claims that it stunts psychological and social development of children.
Yet I look at my son and all I see is a sociable happy kid who loves the outdoors and playing with other children.
So I wonder are these digital devices really dangerous for our children?
According to psychologists, when given a choice between people and an inanimate object (no matter how shiny and colourful it is), people will inevitably choose people. As John Donne (1572-1631) said “No man is an island”.
So if we know that children would innately choose to spend time with each other over being alone, why are we worried that these digital devices will replace human interaction?
Apparently the danger lies when children are not given enough opportunity to interact with each other and these devices become their world. In this day and age it is easier than ever for children (and parents) to take the easy way out and sit and watch TV or use the tablet or the phone. It is our duty as parents to encourage them to get up and be active whether it is through extra-curricular activities, play at home or a simple walk to the park.
I make it a point to regularly expose my son to the outdoors, the park, the beach, the city. We have regular playdates and he is outgoing and would always choose to play outside rather than stay indoors and watch TV or use the tablet. Some weeks go by without using the tablet once. On others he would use it three times in one week. We don’t have a schedule. It is just part of life……….but it does not replace life.
Sherry Turkle, a Professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says “Conversations with each other are the way children learn to have conversations with themselves, and learn how to be alone, learning about solitude and being alone is the bedrock of early development, and you don’t want your kids to miss out on that because you’re pacifying them with a device.”
Ms. Turkle has interviewed parents, teenagers and children about the use of gadgets during early development, and says she fears that children who do not learn real interactions, which often have flaws and imperfections, will come to know a world where perfect, shiny screens give them a false sense of intimacy without risk.
And they need to be able to think independently of a device. “They need to be able to explore their imagination. To be able to gather themselves and know who they are. So someday they can form a relationship with another person without a panic of being alone,” she said. “If you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll only know how to be lonely.”
So the focus should not solely be on how many hours of screen time our children should be exposed to – but more on how many hours of human interaction/ outdoors/ play-time they should have.
Take your children to the park every opportunity you get. Get down on the floor and play with them. Allow them space to play alone and see their creativity and imagination blossom. Invite friends over and encourage play. It is okay to also allow your child to use a tablet in moderation. These devices have become part of our everyday lives and we cannot ignore them. We just need to make sure they do not replace human interaction and that we give our children the opportunity to choose alternative activities.
by Agnes Mae for BuzyMummy