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The vast majority of children today probably play on an iPad, mobile or tablet at least once a day. But is it that a good thing? The blogger Apan sat at the Christmas tree and asked the readers of his blog this:
Right now I just want to find out how many of you let your children play on your mobile phones or iPads. I’m so sick of all the fuss about games. I’m worried that my children have lost their ability to PLAY or STIMULATE themselves and to use their imagination. From the early hours of the morning until late evening, it sounds something like this: “Mom, can I play on your phone?”.
I’m thinking about removing all gaming apps because the children’s craving for games feels so sickly fixed. They cannot sit and wait for the bus without whining that “It’s boring to just sit. I want to play while we wait.” In my world, it’s useful to be bored. Sometimes everything is just very boring. That’s it! The beauty of [boredom] is that everything becomes so much more fun when it is fun later. How do you reason this with children? Feel free to come up with concrete tips and advice.
I thought this was expressed so well and what an important topic for me to discuss here on my blog.
What doe a preschool children need?
Let’s start here. The child needs food at regular times. This is good for the body. They need love (from parents and preferably more others), sleep, peers or friends, movement, imaginative play and verbal interaction (adults who talk to the child and like to read to or sing with the child). Children need all this, every day. Your task as a parent is to create opportunities for that. Does that sound too much?
A hot tip is to allow the child go to preschool. Preschool is built to manage just that.
Your task as a parent is to create opportunities for the child to meet their needs
You cannot eat for the child, but you should make sure that the child has good food when they need it. You cannot sleep for the child, but you should give the child a comfortable bed and peace at night. You should give the child love and attention. You cannot give the child friends, but you should give the child the opportunity to meet other children in pleasant ways. You cannot move the child, but you must ensure that the child has access to an environment that stimulates movement. You cannot play for the child, but you must ensure that the child has the opportunity for creative play. You should talk to and read to the child. Every day.
But what about the iPad then, or mobile phone? You haven’t answered the question!
I think it is important to think about what needs the iPad or mobile phone can meet, and what needs they impede. IPad or mobile provide neither give food nor sleep. Some games can be playful and stimulate imagination, others not. Some films can provide good linguistic input – others less. Children learn languages best from conversations with other people, children or adults. Some games can stimulate movement, but many promote the sedentary lifestyles.
IPad or mobile phones can definitely give the kids something to do for a while. For a parent, it can give you time to yourself to do something else or just breathe.
Consider when your children playing on a screen would suit you best
Think about your daily routines. When does your child playing on a screen suit you? When can you not give them your time, your love, stimulating outdoor activities or anything else? What about when you cook dinner maybe? Could it be that the children get free access to your mobile phone then? Or if they wake up before you on the weekend mornings? Make rules that make everyday life (and the weekend!) easier, and explain this to the children.
Some children’s apps, (such as Toca Bocas) are relatively easy to put down. Some other children’s games has a direct connection to the reward center and triggers the children to play more and more. Often it is a game where you collect money or points to get to the next level, and where there is always a reward when you play a little more. If it’s hard to put down these games, or if the kids are nagging in a way that feels unhealthy, talk to them! Say it’s a giant game that tricks the brain into playing all of the time. Explain that you see that it is not good for the child to play that game.
It is you as an adult who sets the rules for Ipad and phone use in your family
Not the child. Remember that. Games and movies are far too enticing for children to be able to set reasonable limits for screen use. This is true well into old age.
What do you think?
We are the first generation of parents to face this. We must create our own attitudes. Smartphones and iPads and computers are absolutely fantastic, but they cannot meet all our needs. And they often prevent interpersonal relationships. Let’s take control over our screens.