A recent Denver Post article, about a Kaiser Family Foundation study, reveals that children ages eight to 18 spend about 7½ hours a day using electronic devices. We find that disburbing, even before you toss in the hour and a half they spend texting or the half-hour they talk on their cell phones.
Long gone are the days when children spent hours playing hide-and-go-seek and jump rope. According to the study, that time has been replaced with surfing the web, looking up videos on You Tube and playing video games.
Obesity, a decrease in sleep, poor grades and narrowed social interactions are just a few of the consequences of children spending the majority of their waking moments in front of an electronic device.
If children are spending 7½ hours per day using electronic devices, those are 7-plus hours they’re not engaging in the world around them and not learning the critical interactive skills it takes to be successful in life.
“The trouble lies less in what they are doing and more in what they are not doing,” said Dr. David Schonfeld, director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s, and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement.
Children can’t experience the conflict resolution that takes place after an intense game of tether ball while they’re online. And, they’ll never feel the immense joy that comes after winning a game of tug-of-war if they spend all of their time in front of a video game console.
In a recent National Public Radio story out of Cincinnati, customers who shop at a store that sells only non-electronic games (for instance, Monopoly and Scrabble) talked about the fun of playing games face-to-face. We’re glad that feeling hasn’t been entirely lost.
We believe it is up to parents to encourage their children to engage in activities that don’t require them to push buttons or log in. Kids need parental supervision that includes clear, strict boundaries for how much time they are allowed to spend on computers each day.
Parents can encourage their child to have play dates with their peers where they play outside. They can host a good ol’ fashioned sleepover for their child and friends — the kind where the kids bake cookies and stay up all night playing games and putting toothpaste on each other’s faces.
Parents need to lead the way. If a child perceives that his mom or dad cares more about checking out what is online than spending time with them, that child is going to start thinking the virtual world has more to offer than the real one.
That’s a message we don’t need to spread.