Why Children Still Need to Play - With Each Other, Parents and The Real World

Virtual Distance is everywhere.  And it is creeping into our home lives more and more.  As many of you know, my research is heading in the direction of understanding how screen time/technology creates Virtual Distance among kids.  In many conversations I have, people 'know' this in their head, but think there's nothing they can really do.  Others insist that technology - no matter what, for whom, is our future - technological determinism.  But evidence continues to grow that the more time we trade-off with technological interactions, the less time we have for human interactions.  And that's not good for anybody.

 

This is not a message to turn off all machines.  It is a message to turn on our human intelligence, step back, use our metacognitive skills and take action on the not so great unintended consequences of technology.  Especially when it comes to our children.

 

While Virtual Distance is prevalent in the workplace, nowhere is it more critically important to recognize, than at home.  A new report by the American Association of Pediatrics, shows that media exposure, especially to 2 year olds and younger, may be harmful to their development.  But the findings have implications for children of all ages.  Kids brain development, and their emotional development, depend heavily on REAL human interaction.  Self-esteem and self-efficacy grow as parents pay attention to their kids, show them that they hear and see them, and demonstrate that they truly care.  That means turning off electronic devices as much as possible when raising children.  Sure - we're all caught up in the use of technology.  And for many things, technology is useful.  But not for your kid's development - especially when they are very young.

 

I have talked to a lot of parents who think it's just terrific that their 1 or 2-year olds can turn on and off the computer.  Or that they're 5-year olds are better of because of virtual worlds - connecting to other 5-year olds.  But there's just no evidence for the benefits of such relationships.  What we do know is that real-world, independent play, having direct experiences with the world, are the most important activities kids can have.

 

Do yourself a favor, do your kids a service, read this article and think beyond it.  Your children's future may depend on it.

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Comment by Community Director on October 31, 2011 at 2:07pm
I agree that we all need to turn on our human intelligence. This is critical in the way we raise our children as well as how we continue to interact with co-workers and friends. Guiding our children as well as other peoples children through example goes a long way.

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