Screen Time Vs: Keeping Kids Balanced

“Go play!” Who among us has not heard that from their parents? This phrase means spending time outdoors with friends or playing traditional games for generations of children. Then there was a pandemic. But even before that, today’s pop culture is pushing young children away from traditional games (blocks, puzzles, books, trucks, dolls, pretend play) by the temptation to spend screen time on electronic devices.

According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of American parents surveyed said their children age 11 or younger spend a lot of time on smartphones or playing video games. The Pew Research Center also noted that 60% of children “began using smartphones before the age of five.”

reading status

These statistics are alarming, as child development experts at the Michigan Health Laboratory have found that children spend more time on electronic devices than participating in traditional childhood games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged two to five years spend no more than one hour in front of a screen per day, a recommendation with which some disagree.

“I would not recommend giving young children access to electronic devices or screens during childhood,” said Dr. Errol Baptiste, who has a thriving practice and teaches medical students as a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Illinois. Medicine at Rockford. “What I tell parents from the beginning is that children should learn to read. Reading to children begins during pregnancy. From then on, parents should encourage children to read, first with picture books, then with books with prose. The important thing is to focus on reading and learning. And gaining knowledge, not learning how to kill someone in a video game.”

Baptiste says the benefits of hands-on play for children are numerous. “Traditional play makes children think; it allows them to develop critical thinking skills, build objects, and use their imagination. Children understand relationships when they can take stuffed animals or toys and put them in real-life situations.”

“When the children come to visit the office, I will first check their stuffed animals and then I check the child. Traditional play gives children the opportunity to develop their ideas rather than having a screen telling them what to do.”

The Baptist advocates screen time for kids based on age only, which he says should start later in childhood. However, he acknowledges that educational television programs and computer-based learning games complement traditional playing and reading.

“In our 45 years of pediatric practice, based on experience and evidence, it is clear that children who have been exposed to reading do well later in life. If parents start making reading a habit, it teaches children the importance of lifelong learning. Children who learn to read. At a young age they have this practice ingrained in them.”

developmental gap

Another compelling reason to severely limit children’s screen time has to do with brain development in young children. Eileen Sharp, associate professor of psychology at Rockford University, explains why. “Children three and under cannot distinguish between the real world and the fantasy world. Looking at a screen confuses part of their logic and presents the world in two dimensions. Young children are tangible and practical learners, and that is not how things look on a screen.”

Sharp said traditional play also helps children develop skills they will use throughout their lives. “Traditional play helps boost creativity. The situations children play with their toys mimic what they encounter in real life. They try to integrate their lives into their imaginative play.”

“Interactive pretend play, especially with peers, siblings or family members, also develops a young child’s ability to read faces, understand social skills and learn empathy,” she said.

Sharp says that relying on electronic devices to keep children entertained poses risks to development. “Excess screen time on creative play can lead to sleep problems, behavioral problems, and obesity. Because screen can change quickly, it is difficult for children to process what they see, which may contribute to ADHD.”

“When children play with traditional games, they are responsible for the action, and it happens at their own pace. Children have time to process the scene as I orchestrate it,” she said. “Traditional play lays the foundation for decision-making, problem-solving, and fine motor skills.”

Game based software

Engaging young children in traditional play is the foundation of the Rockford Public Schools Early Years Program. Vicki Sherman, a preschool teacher for 21 years, created her classroom to facilitate hands-on interaction among her students.

“I have several play centers that children take turns to every day. They plan and review the centers they visit. My students can choose plays, building blocks, science, reading, manipulation, art, and sensory centers,” she said. . “I also have a Cozy Cube, which is a space where the kids can relax and spend some quiet time.”

Since the beginning of his career, Sherman has said that the use of electronic devices by his students has become more and more common.

“I have seen a change in the behaviors of my students over the years with the development of technology. Nowadays, children start using electronic devices when they are hands-on children; they have difficulty paying attention and have shorter attention spans.”

“When I started teaching preschoolers, there were no smartphones or tablets, so there were fewer ways young children could spend time in front of a screen,” she said. “Kids only had TV or educational computer games.”

Sherman invites reading and playing, and encourages young children to use their fine motor skills. “It seems that writing skills are more difficult for young children to master. Children play on electronic devices rather than using pens or coloring books. Any game that helps children develop their fine motor skills can be very beneficial.”

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