Think about what the modern person may do when they're passing time, whether it's waiting for the bus or a friend, or even as they are conversing with someone. They reach into their pocket or purse to pull out their life. The tiny device may serve as their method of payment, a camera, news source, or social media/communication tool, is their solution to "boredom." Let's face it, our lives are stored in our smart phones and without it, many of us would be lost. But hopefully, most reasonable adults who have enough self-awareness are able to regulate their use of screen devices and react maturely if they had to go without their phones or tablets for a couple of hours. What about children? Are they mature enough to be introduced to screens and expected to handle it reasonably?
The block center, which was once the home of amazing structures was a desolate land of blocks piled on each other with no purpose or reason. The only thing that held their attention were the small animal toys or cars that were used as accessories to enhance the block structures. Similarly, in dramatic play, our kids were more interested in the props that enhanced pretend play. Even with the props, most of the toys were dumped onto the floor. The "That's Awesome!" moments were being replaced by "What's happening?"
It was as if imagination had died in the children born in 2010. I started to look into events that occurred in 2010 to see if I could find a connection. Sure enough, one major breakthrough in technology was introduced in the same year my students were born, the iPad. Smart devices were becoming more and more prevalent in our lives. People used to be afraid of allowing kids use their very expensive phones or tablets in fear that they may drop and damage it. Eventually, more homes had access to the devices and parents were more comfortable with allowing their kids to use them.
"What does your child do during their free time at home?"
All of them replied in similar fashion that their child plays on the iPad or on their phone.
With this in mind, I began to notice just how much time kids were spending with a screen in front of them, some as early as a couple of months old.
I remember taking public transportation and seeing a young mother with her child, who couldn't have been more than a year old, strapped in to her chest with the baby facing forward. She sat down and took out her phone. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought. Until I saw her load up a video to put in front of her child's face. The baby was calm and already stimulated by the moving bus and the view of the different things in her line of sight. I think there is a big misconception that parents have about screens. Many seem to think these devices will give their child a head start in learning and becoming smarter, not realizing how it may impact their child's behavior and development later on. Kids are able to learn how to unlock a phone before learning how to clean, dress, and feed themselves.
My uncle once made a comment about how smart his grandchildren were for being able to work his phone to open apps to play games or watch videos. In a room full of children, no one interacted with each other because everyone had their face glued to their own screen device.
I've seen grandparents push their grandchildren in a stroller. In that stroller, the child sits comfortably holding his grandmother's phone. When she needed the phone back, she was met with a vicious and loud tantrum from her own grandchild. Instead of putting her foot down and showing him that his behavior is unacceptable, she caves in and gives the phone back. The loud roars and violent flailing of his arm ceases and the beast is calm.
Even in restaurants, parents are resorting to giving their child screen devices to keep them quiet so they can eat a meal without interruption. There was a time where family meals were spent talking with one another. It was an important time to bond and find out about each other's day. Instead of allowing kids to have a voice at dinner, children are being silenced with a screen.
Children do not have the opportunity to be bored anymore. With the death of boredom, creativity and imagination dies with it. There isn't a chance to be bored and create ways and imagine situations to get out of that boredom. Children are being trained to be instantly gratified with phones and tablets. And when they're introduced to screens at a young age, that stimulation from a screen has set the standard to keep their attention. When they reach school age, teachers must compete with screens to maintain their students' attention and it's a battle that's very difficult to win.
Going into the new school year, I was unsure of what to expect for the year. But with what I had learned and experienced, I wanted to share it with my families so they can take that information and make a decision of what's best for their child. I spent the first day orientation speaking to parents about what I had observed in the previous year. I suggested that they avoid putting a screen in front of their child if they could. For those who had already introduced it, I highly recommended that they limit the amount of time their child spends with any screen device.
Although some kids are still spending a significant amount of time with screens at home, many parents are not allowing their children to use their phones or tablets to occupy them.