A recent column in the New York Times by Jane E. Brody entitled “Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children,” has the team at educational learning toy company Click-A-Brick shaking their collective heads over the statistics about how much time children spend interacting with electronic devices and how badly it disrupts their development.
In the column, Brody cites the 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which in turn cites statistics from a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.”
The media in question is identified as television, computers, tablets and cell phones and the Kaiser study says parents have few to no rules about their children’s use of these types of electronics. Using electronic devices as much as the average American child does now disrupts their development.
The AAP recommends no exposure to electronic media for children under 2 years old because their brains are developing rapidly and they learn best by interacting with people rather than screens. Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours per day with electronic media, the AAP says, preferably with high-quality content. The AAP also recommends that all children and adolescents should spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and using their imaginations in free play.
Co-Founders of educational learning toy company Click-A-Brick Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza say they are pleased that Brody is helping to shine a light on these worrying trends, but they are also disheartened by the reality that more and more children are having their development stunted by their lack of free, unstructured playing time.
“Seeing a column like this is the proverbial double edged sword,” Smith said. “On the one hand, we’re happy to see that this issue is garnering some much-needed attention, but on the other hand, we’re concerned by the numbers. That’s far too much time for a child to be spending with electronic devices instead of spent playing and using their imaginations. We believe children would be much better served by learning via interacting with people, playing with hands-on educational toys and observing the world around them. There’s really no reason for a child to even touch a tablet or cell phone before the they can even walk or talk. Electronic devices are a part of everyday life now, obviously, but that doesn’t mean kids need to be exposed to them from day one. They need to learn that it’s okay to just sit quietly and observe what’s going on around them. This will help them a lot more later in life than just watching and tapping on a screen.”
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