A Crotchety Plea For Old-Fashioned Play

Further evidence that the world is going to heck in a handbasket - toddlers addicted to electronic devices.  Do I even need to comment on this?  Do you realize that, when I first started raising my kids over 21 years ago, all I had to worry about was keeping them from watching too much TV?  This was an extraordinarily easy proposition, considering that we couldn't afford cable and that our TV at the time was a 13-inch hand-me-down with a fuzzy screen. 

Now?  I still have young-ish kids, and attempting to keep them mostly screen-free is becoming a somewhat quixotic quest, one that -- at times -- almost makes me weep.  Their friends come over with the Internet in their pockets.  I have to confiscate smartphones and similar devices at the door.  (Yes, I'm THAT mom.)  Of course, at their friends' houses, there are probably different rules.  I have to trust that the parents at least restrict the kids to somewhat harmless content.

Healthier than Minecraft.  Really.
But it isn't really the content so much that bothers me.  It's the activity (or lack thereof) itself.  It's not the screen time, per se, but what screen time replaces.  Remember Legos?  Board games?  Cards?  Jump rope?  Any of those activities are healthier for a developing brain than gazing at a screen, no matter how clever or complex the game displayed thereon might be. 

You see, staring at a screen makes the child a consumer, not a creator.  I've watched my kids playing, and I'm not impressed with what I see.  The child behaves like a sophisticated sort of lab rat, trained to push the right levers to get its rewards.  The body posture, the focus on the screen, the jerky movements, the constant pushing to the next level - NOT NORMAL.  These games, fun as they might be, are only poor 21st-century substitutes for real play.

Real play - does anyone even know what that is, anymore?


[Child with IPad: The Telegraph]
[Monopoly: Freewebs]

Comments

  1. I totally agree with you. Technology is robbing kids off their childhood. This is why we don't have a TV in our home. We have laptops and an ipad, but the kids only get to use them on rare occasional for school projects. No smart phones either. I don't have one, why should they?

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  2. Yes! Yes! I feel like so much has changed even in the last 3 years in our house! Ugh.

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  3. You forgot the blank, zombie-like stare. that's scary. We don't have TV, but we have Netflix. Once you allow a little bit of cartoon watching, it's hard to control. it's like a beast with many heads. We cut off one and two grow instead.

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  4. Yup. Walking a line here. But the 4yo? Does not have her own screen, for crying out loud.

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  5. I agree. My kids use the Ipad extremely judiciously. However, there are studies out now claiming that games improve reaction time, decision making ability and speed, etc.

    Not that it matters. My kids won't be getting a smart phone before I do, and I still don't have one.

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  7. I hear you. It's easier when you just don't have the stuff. My kids cuddle up around one laptop occasionally, and when they watch TV they tend to also work on projects at the same time. I think if there were extra little screens lurking around it would be hard to pry them from their hands. We do still play cards and board games, but I wonder how long that will last.

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  8. We restrict electronics pretty hard around here. I don't think the kids have watched TV in weeks. DD has an iPod Touch, but she's not my problem with electronics and monitors herself fairly closely. My son... yeah. He's a problem. As for *toddlers* being addicted, that's taught. Don't even get me started on that.

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  9. I have one kid, and you better believe she has her own iPod. We have board games, we have jump ropes, we just don't have anyone else to play with but me! There are limits on it though.

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    1. Obviously, we all resort to parking the kid(s) in front of a screen at times. I'm just tired of people who rationalize it as quality educational time.

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  10. My kids do both. There's no way around it. We're in a digital technology era. All of us use it...I'm writing a blog, I'm commenting, I tweet, I Facebook, I pin...you get the idea?! Why restrict them from trying it out...at the same time, I definitely strive to strike a balance with lots of down time. Just being realistic here!

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  11. Thank you for being "that mom." The world needs more of you!

    My 7th grader tells me he is one of the very few in his entire middle school without a cell phone. Luckily, he still prefers reading and playing outside to constant video games... usually.
    I still treasure the games of Sorry that we would play between breakfast and preschool.

    This reminds me that it's almost time to host another game night at my house. We invite friends (kids and adults alike) to come play board games or cards games.

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  12. It exists at my house. We turn it OFF quite a lot because otherwise they do turn into zombies. And having experienced life with only an ipad for a couple weeks, I'm convinced that tablets DO make consumers, not creators, out of people.

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  13. Yes, yes, yes!

    I think "consumer vs. creator" hits the nail on the head.

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  14. Real games...yeah, that would be what my husband and I play with our friends. Board games, card games, and tabletop roleplaying games (think 'let's pretend' for grownups). We do also play computer games, but only occasionally. There are too many books to read and too much yarn to knit to get around to computer games...

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    1. this is late, but I just had to reply. our friend's son is just going into first grade. they supplecment his school with online math sites and other homeschool recommended sites. His math site----he just fiddles around and guesses at the answers and just keeps trying until he stumbles on the answer---not learning a blessed thing. and he is a smart kid capable of so much more. scary.

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