Are you from a generation that was reminded to “head home when the streetlights come on?” Well, consider yourself fortunate. Things have changed. A lot. Increasingly, a rich, play-filled childhood is an exception and a privilege of the few. Ask your average family to describe their days, and “busy” is the answer you’ll most likely get. And what about the children? Unfortunately, they just aren’t playing.
Children are now primarily spending their waking hours in scheduled, adult-directed activities. There is very little “free” time left over. And how are they spending the majority of this precious free time that is not controlled by adults? You guessed it- on screens. At one point children stopped playing when the streetlight came on, now they aren’t playing because they are distracted by the screen-lights of devices.
No one doubts the substantial benefits of technology, and I want to make it clear that I am not anti-screen time. I am however, an advocate of adult monitored, extremely limited screen use by young children. There are only so many hours in a day, and quality play is substantially reduced when screens become the primary way children spend their free time. Why does it even matter? Why are play experiences so important?
Researchers from diverse fields of study agree that play experiences provide numerous benefits that we are just beginning to understand. Conversely, the absence of quality play experiences can have negative impacts on a child’s development. So turn off those screen lights and go play!
“High-level dramatic play produces documented cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. However, with children spending more time in adult-directed activities and media use, forms of child play characterized by imagination and rich social interactions seem to be declining.” Developmentally Appropriate Practice Guidelines From: Principles of Child Development and Learning that Inform Practice Copyright © 2009 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children