I share the concern I have heard others voice over the proliferation of screens in the lives of today's children. Everywhere you turn, kids as young as one, and often even younger, are glued to screens mere inches from their faces.
True play is active and imaginative. It allows the child to create scenarios and explore the real world, as well as the world of their own imagaination. Real toys facilitate play.
I was speaking wih a toy executive recently, whose own company markets tablet for children. Even she expressed dismay that her three young nieces all have the use of a hand-me-down iPad and iPhone, and even the parents' current iPad.
She recounted a recent experience of playing with her neice doing some craft activity and all the while a portable screen was close at hand playing a movie.
Parents have long been admonished to limit screen time for their kids – passive TV watching, video game playing, internet surfing – and instead to encourage active physical play. What happened to that? Does watching these small portable screens take the place of TV and video games, or is it additional screen time?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but as this toy exec said, “It’s crazy.”
I, too, see a certain craziness in giving a two year old a $500 piece of delicate consumer electronics to play with without a second thought.
What will be the result of children growing up with screens in-hand, in lieu of giving their full attention to their interaction with others and in lieu of exploring this very three-dimensional world we live in with real three-dimensional toys? I wish I knew. At the very least, childhood injuries are already reported to be on the rise, due in part to parents being more distracted by their own screens.
Change is afoot, change is a constant. As always, change will force us to create even better traditional toys and games, and getting better at what we do is always a good thing.