A recent survey, published by daynurseries.co.uk has highlighted the impact technology is having on children, revealing that more children had imaginary friends five years ago than they do today.
The poll received 1,000 responses from nursery owners, managers and staff. Of these 1,000 responses, less than half said that children at their nursery had imaginary friends. Of these responses, 72% stated that fewer children have imaginary friends than five years ago. With the rise in technology and its usage, 63% believe that this is due to screen time which is hindering the imaginations of children.
Parents report a range of issues caused by the amount of time young children spend in front of a screen. This includes their kids’ ability to communicate as well as the ability to cope when things go wrong.
With smart phones and tablets now being a big part of everyday childhood, kids of all ages are spending hours upon hours in front of screens and it’s certainly having consequences.
What is screen time?
"Screen time" is used to describe the amount of time spent in front of computers, smartphones, tablets and other digital devices which display screens.
Are smartphones bad for kids?
Whilst smartphones have many educational apps that aid children’s communication skills and sharpen their knowledge, studies have also linked the usage of electronic media with delayed cognitive behaviour in children.
In addition, this technology can also serve as a distraction to studies. As children grow older, their engagement in educational apps drop and they spend more time on social media instead.
Why do people limit screen time for kids?
Research suggests that too much screen time is linked to bad sleep patterns, lower grades, depression and anxiety (particularly from social media). Whilst limiting a child’s screen time can be quite challenging, more and more parents are taking action due to these recent discoveries.
The World Health Organization have advised parents to limit screen time to an hour a day for children younger than 5 as has the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy of Pediatrics AAP have even recommended that parents put more emphasis on 'unplugged', creative playtime for children.
As noted by the Business Insider, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two of the biggest names in technology raised their kids tech free. Steve Jobs refused to let his kids play on the iPad when it was first released. Bill Gates even went as far as not allowing his kids mobile phones until they turned 14.
Even schools in Silicon Valley have opted to be low tech, using old fashioned methods of teaching aided by chalk boards rather than electronic devices. The Business Insider noted that Brightworks School in San Francisco encourages kids to learn creativity through building things and they even have classes in tree houses.
Are video games good for kids or not?
This question is very debatable as some video games do wonders to improve children’s problem-solving skills as well as their hand-eye coordination. However, there are many violent video games on the market which can cause kids to develop aggressive behaviours.
With children spending hours per day watching TV and playing video games, the time spent engaging in physical activity has lessened, thus contributing to obesity.
In addition to this, video games can become addictive and have been proven to be less conducive to creativity than free play, where kids are left to their imaginations. Bill Gates’ choice to implement screen time limits for his kids came about when he noticed his daughter’s unhealthy attachment to a video game.
Activities that harness children's creativity
Creativity offers children a range of intellectual, emotional and health benefits and there are many ways in which parents can encourage their child's creativity. Some of these include:
Going for walks and exposing your children to the real world. This can help activate their senses and also inspire your children to be creative.
Allowing for " free time" can encourage a child to be creative. In the survey published by daynurseries.co.uk, one parent observed that kids no longer have time to get bored and as a result are never left to their own devices to become creative. 'Helicopter parents' who are excessive in filling up free time in activities and screen use are not allowing for creativity to flourish.
Reading to your children as well as encouraging them to read to themselves fosters creativity and helps to expand their imaginations.
Providing creative resources such and arts and crafts materials, dressing up boxes and building blocks can also help.
Is technology making us less creative?
Children are not the only ones suffering from hours of screens on a daily basis. Adults are also becoming less engaged in the real world, as they glue themselves to their phones. Teens are spending all their free time staring at a screen rather than developing hobbies and harnessing creativity.
How are screens affecting your children's eyes?
Screens are not only hindering creative vision but also their actual eyesight. The LED screens of various digital devices emit a large amount of "blue light." Over time, these can cause damage to the light-sensitive retina of the eye.
The term 'Computer Vision Syndrome' is also used to describe common problems people face when spending excessive hours per day in front of a screen. By staring at screens for hours upon hours, our eye muscles are constantly having to focus and re-focus and as a result, they start to strain. This much focus also reduces our blink rate which can lead to dry eyes. As well as dry eyes, other symptoms of computer vision syndrome include headaches, irritated eyes, blurred vision and double vision.
How can we protect our eyes?
Whilst it is best to cut down on screen time, certain contact lenses and sunglasses can also be worn to reduce the amount of blue light that enters the eyes. Some lenses and sunglasses even have an anti-reflective coating applied to the lenses which reduces eye strain and blocks blue light.
Polarised sunglasses are suggested for outdoor wear as blue light can also come from the sun.
There are many other ways in which you can protect your children's eyes from the effects of screens, but we also recommend that you monitor your child's vision and eye health by arranging yearly visits to the eye doctor.