Families That Play Together Grow Together: Part One – Tech-Time vs Playtime

Tech-time, today’s only playtime?

Do you know how much time your kids are spending on their electronic devices per day?  An article on LearningWorksForKids.com – “How Much Time Kids Spend With Technology” – reported:

In a “Kaiser Foundation study conducted in 2010, children between the ages of eight and 18 spend an average of 7 hours 38 minutes a day with digital media. When the use of more than one digital device at a time is taken into account, they spend more than 10-1/2 hours a day with digital technologies.”

Okay so that sounds like a lot!!  But I have to be honest here and say that when it comes to our family this is not far off the mark.  I have three daughters, ages 10, 11, & 14, all of whom have their own devices – yes that is plural because I am including a variety of smartphones, iPods, iPads, Nintendo DSs, laptops, and computers.  They each have a combination of at least three of these devices in their possession.  Not only are the kids using multiple electronic devices all day, but their father and I are as well.

When do we have time to play together?

We try to make time.  It’s not easy, or without whining and grumbling, but when we use favourite games and toys we soon forget about all our “apps” and find ourselves in the throes of laughter, teasing, joking and – last but not least – conversation.

How much time does our family spend playing together?

Catching butterflies with “Elefun”

Not much, unfortunately.  Our family probably plays a game or two together every few weeks, adding up to about 3-8 hours a month.  When you crunch the numbers like this it really puts things into perspective.  Our monthly family playtime ads up to less than one day’s worth of tech-time.  Wow! Perhaps I’m wrong, but I feel as though we may even be playing together more often than many other families…on the other hand it may be less than some families.  In either case I know that I want to spend more time playing with my kids.

What is happening to playtime today, why is it happening, and how is it affecting our kids?

In “All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed” found on TheAtlantic.com it said: “For more than fifty years, children’s free play time has been continually declining, and it’s keeping them from turning into confident adults”.  The article explained how a decrease in play has led to an increase in problems in today’s child including “anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self control”.

“For more than fifty years, children’s free play time has been continually declining, and it’s keeping them from turning into confident adults”

Why has time for free-play been declining so much?

It’s not all about the popularity of technology – changes in playtime at school have also made a huge impact.  An article on Parents.com – “The Importance of Play” – reported:

“the amount of time that children spend playing each day has gone down considerably over the last two decades. A 1989 survey taken by the National Association of Elementary School Principals found that 96 percent of schools had at least one recess period for kids. A decade later, a similar survey found that only 70 percent of kindergarten classes offered even one recess period each day.”

This explains a lot when I look at my kids and their struggles.  But how does something as benign-seeming as play have such a huge impact on our children’s development?

Read Part Two – The Benefits of Interactive Play for Kids and Families

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