Plug in now and then, researchers say, but not for too long

I am an advocate of the unplugged imagination.

What do I mean when I say that? The unplugged imagination is daydreaming and play that doesn’t depend on toys or games requiring cords or charged batteries. Promoting unplugged play encourages role playing, make believe, imagining objects to be more than they are (like turning a blanket into a magic carpet or a tree into a giant), and outdoor activity.

But even a lifestyle with dominantly unplugged play still has room for screen time. In fact, research in the United Kingdom indicates an hour a day of computer or video games can be beneficial.

In a Future Learn blog posted by The Open University,  the results of the study were shared:

Dr Andrew Przybylski and colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute surveyed nearly 5,000 British boys and girls aged 10-15 years.

They found that, compared to children who played no computer games at all, those who played for around an hour a day:

  • had higher levels of sociability;
  • were more satisfied with their lives;
  • had fewer friendship and emotional problems;
  • and were less hyperactive.

Overall, research findings in this area show that moderate time spent playing computer games is a positive experience for most young people socially and academically.

Those definitely aren’t the doom and gloom reports we frequently see about computer and video games.

However, the key here is moderation.

The video Digital Devices and Children on Parents.com paints a picture about how pervasive screen time is in children’s lives. In the video, Jim Steyer, co-founder of Next Generation, says the average child spends seven and three-quarters hours with screen time daily — more time than they spend at school.

“We talk a lot about limiting screen time, and that’s the number one thing that you, as a parent, can do,” Steyer says.

Growing up, my mom gave my sisters and I an hour of TV time per day. (Exceptions were made for holidays, occasionally when friends visited, and on Friday nights — those were the days of TGIF, and the entire family would gather at 7 p.m. to watch the TGIF block of programs.)

TV time encompassed any activity in front of the screen, whether it was a TV show, video game, or movie. As we got older, my sister and I often would pool our TV time to play two hours of Nintendo together. The same compromise had to be used for movies.

Once the allotted TV time was used, Mom would move us along to a different activity.

Like my mom, parents have to be the rule-setters about allotting screen time. But some experts say parents also have to be example-setters.

In the Digital Devices and Children video, psychologist Michael Thompson says:

“It’s very, very hard to limit our children’s involvement with the digital world. It is partly hard because we are addicted ourselves. Kids see us doing this. They believe that this is where they lives are going to be lived and they are drawn to it. Parents are having the hardest time teaching their kids to turn it off, to go to bed, to not take cell phone calls at dinner. And that’s because Dad maybe taking cell phone calls at dinner or Mom might be taking cell phones at dinner.”

This is an area where my husband and I will have to improve once we have children. I spend a lot of time reading (and writing) online, plus writing books, taking calls, and updating social media. And that’s just for my author platform. It doesn’t even account for the time spent plugging into our smart phones to stay plugged into our newsroom.

Screen time has its benefits, though. Whether it’s social time playing a game with friends, an educational TV show or app, or even reading on an e-reader, there are positive sides to living in a digital age.

So go ahead and encourage the kiddos to watch TV or play on the computer or gaming system for a while each day.

But after an hour or so has passed, it might be wise to pull the plug.

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One Response to Plug in now and then, researchers say, but not for too long

  1. I agree whole-heartedly with this. On the weekends and when the kiddo is sick, I relax my stance, but for the most part if the TV is on, its educational programming. We believe much more in reading for entertainment, and there, lately, have been many, many (foam) sword fights up in the 6 year old’s bedroom.

    Liked by 1 person

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