There was a lot of conversation about playing at the CES2018 Kids@Play Family Tech Summit. Joining Living in Digital Times‘ founders and producers were inventors, developers, and psychologists. They were all there to discuss the importance of technology in the world we live in and the responsibility of tech developers to know how to create products that are helpful and not harmful. There were conversations about the amount of screen time that is acceptable for kids. There were many new tech gadgets that seek to teach kids about technology without requiring screen usage to do the educating. One of the main focuses of the day’s events, however, was playing. How much time should kids play and what can we learn from how they play? The day started with a panel consisting of a couple a renowned child/family psychologist, a psychologist responsible for Child Development and Learning at Mattel, the president of The Toy Association, and the Vice President of PBS Kids Digital.
Play IS the “Secret Sauce.”
Fred Rodgers said, “Play is the work of childhood.” Educators and toy manufacturers are taking this idea seriously. You will have noticed how more and more toys have some kind of educational element to them. This is no accident. The toy industry is taking note of the importance in play for a child’s development and education. The problem, as discussed in this panel at CES, is that many parents lack the ability to truly play and therefore, forget the benefit it has for their kids.
“Play is how kids explore the world.” Sarah Dewitt – VP, PBS Kids Digital
“Some parents see play as a luxury…we’re doing a lot of work to show parents the benefits of play.” – Dr. Jody Sherman Levos – Dir. Child Development and Learning at Mattel
They say that the key is balance. In fact, I heard that word hundreds of time throughout the discussions that day. We have to work to maintain a proper balance. We should balance how busy kids are doing homework with a healthy amount of play. We also need to keep a proper attitude about how busy we, as parents, are and keep from being so busy we can’t spend time playing and exploring with our children. Parents are letting tech do more than it should do and play roles in their lives it was never meant to play. Erik Fisher, child/family psychologist said: “Tech isn’t the trouble. It’s time with your kids.” he also stated that “our kids are, in some ways, becoming guinea pigs.”
We have used tech to teach our kids to read, entertain them, or even just keep our kids busy. The general consensus is that kids under two shouldn’t have much screen time at all and then they should be slowly introduced to toys and apps that are used mainly for educational purposes. Most importantly is that parents spend time playing with tech alongside their kids. Not only does this increase a parent’s awareness of the benefit (or lack thereof) of the device their kid is using, it also gives kids a sense of security that they can talk to you about the tech they love. This, of course, is always recommended by experts and by those of us at BecauseFamily. Imagine how easy it will be for your 13 years old to talk to you about their time on social media that day if they’ve been discussing their tech usage habits with you since they were four years old.
Remember that kids don’t have to be inundated with technology to become the next tech giants. In fact, many west coast tech executives send their children to tech-free schools. While technology can add a layer to our kids’ play and education, it’s important that we talk to our kids about their play. Encourage them to be creative and color outside the lines. Remember what it was like to be a kid and allow them to mess up and do it wrong without negative consequences. Most of all, don’t let tech usage, even for educational purposes, outweigh the other areas of play that are so important for your kids.