As I a parent I am concerned about the amount of time my child…soon to be plural spends in front of screens. Research (one of many studies’ here) continues to shed light on issues related to depression, anger, increased BMI, diminished delayed gratifications skills, and a plethora of other unintended side effects. My spouse and I have tried to move towards no screen time Monday through Friday. Introducing a system of delayed gratification for watching things to more of a weekend reward system. When we can achieve success in application we have noticed a diminished amount of fussing and irritation towards the end of his day. Part of this I think is linked to how the time not watching a screen is managed. The importance that my spouse places on reading with our son every night before bed. is a perfect example of this management.
The other component of why I think this effect is happening is gratification. To quote Sheldon Cooper “the most powerful graphics card, the human imagination.” Is what stand’s between my child being bored or self-entertained. The constant barrage of visual stimulation for lack of a better term makes his imagination muscle weak. He will not want to engage in self-directed play with his toys after spending time in front of a screen. He will also become upset when the screen is shut off, verse when he is playing with toys and asked to get ready for bed his attitude seems to be accepting of the idea that they will be there tomorrow.
The overlap between how much screen time is healthy for a child and when to start exposing my child to video games has been trying to say the least. Since I am a fairly avid gamer my son has been drawn to video game from the moment he was able to articulate the words. When he was toddler it was a simple issue since he lacked the hand eye coordination needed to play. As he headed into the 4 year old age range that hurdle was cleared and Mario Kart on the Wii was introduced. While this step appeased some of his thirst for video games his true object of desire Halo has remained out of reach until recently.
I had a Halo LAN party over the Holiday break with some friends, and my older Brother, the afore mentioned gamer from “I miss the social aspect of gaming” was in attendance. I pushed my son into my brothers lap and tasked him with helping him play. I had tried on a couple occasions to teach my son how to play Halo 1 and had failed to make any real progress. I had been approaching it in a direct manner. Kind of a put the dot on the MOB and shoot. My lack of success I attributed to his lack of spatial awareness. It was clear that he not understanding the physics of the character on the screen and thus unable to shot at the MOB. My brother on the other hand approached teaching him to play based on moving around in the game and left shooting and killing out of the equation all together.
The result was my son actually being able to play for an hour, and him actually contributing on one occasion to the fighting objective of the team he was on. My brother had approached teaching him defensive movement in the environment instead of trying to shoot things with no knowledge of my current failure to help my son achieve results in learning how to play the game previously. The joy that my son achieved from this marked improvement was incredible.
At this point in reading you may ask yourself how these two issues above relate to one another. The amount of time spent in front a screen has direct mental and physical health implications. It does not in turn have a direct effect on how a much a child will or will not learn. More does not equal better.
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