Screen Free Play
I’m Scott, Shopkeeper at Timeless Toys in Chicago. Today, we will talk about screen free play and why it is so important. We will take a look at what the research says about screen time and its effects on attention and language development skills.
Research on recreational screen time shows that it impairs executive functioning. Research done by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington shows a link between television viewing at ages 1 and 3 and attentional problems at age 7. With 1300 children at age 1 and 1300 children at age 3 tested, over 10% had attention problems at age 7. Another study by the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia shows that fast paced television and educational cartoons had an immediate negative effect on 4 year olds’ executive functions. The typical kid watches 4.5 hours of TV and videos a day before age 5. This gives them a 45% higher risk of having attention problems in school. This is because watching videos preconditions children’s brains to expect rapid changing stimulation. The world moves at a much slower pace. So when school and life are much slower than television programming, the child becomes board. If you would like to learn more about this, there is a great Ted Talk by pediatrician, Dr. Dimitri Christakis that is worth checking out.
Television can also lead to a delay in language development. I a study done by DR Frederick Zimmerman with a total of 1000 parents of children age 2-24 months showed that among infants, each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs associated with a 16.99 point decrease on a Communicative Development Inventory test. This basically means that children understood an average of 6-8 fewer words per hour of “educational” Dvds viewed per day.
It is a common misconception that videos and toys that speak to the child will help the child develop language skills. These types of products actually slow down language learning. When a child has a toy or video that speaks, they let it speak on their behalf instead of learning the language themselves. Children learn language by interacting with adults and seeing their mouths form words while listening. When screens are on, adults and children speak less and learn less.
So why do we use screens with children? The answer is simple, it keeps them entertained. It is difficult to keep a young child sitting still and staying entertained while trying to cook dinner or while out and about. As a father of a 1.5 year old, i completely understand this. I am often tempted myself to take an ipad and put it in front of my child just so I can get some things done around the house. So, what are our other options? How do we get through a plane ride or a restaurant without using screens?
It is going to be hard, but in the end it will be worth it. The key is starting as soon as possible. Here are a few key things to start with
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