This is why your child should be playing more and spending less time on that tablet device

Children are spending more time on electronic devices. Picture: Hessam Nabavi / Unsplash

Children are spending more time on electronic devices. Picture: Hessam Nabavi / Unsplash

Published Apr 21, 2024


While being a parent can be rewarding it doesn’t come without its challenges. One of those challenges is finding the right way to keep your child entertained.

When we were growing up, it was the norm to go outside and play in the sand, in the yard, get dirty and play with all manner of things.

It was the best way to socialise, keep busy, and stay out of your parent's hair for a few hours. It was a time when it was still safe for kids to in fact be outside playing with their friends without parental supervision.

With so many children disappearing these days, parents are rightly afraid to let their children out of their sight.

This is just of one of the many reasons why our children no longer simply go outside and play, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a big backyard. As a result, many kids don’t even have the option to play outside in their own homes.

In an increasingly urban and expensive world, many people cannot afford the three bedroom house with a big yard, a driveway and the double garage. As a result, many people opt to live in cheaper sectional title properties such as complexes, which often have no backyards and strict rules that don’t allow children to play outside unsupervised.

This means that parents have to find other ways to entertain their kids.

In most instances, parents are now forced to physically interact with their children. Especially if they don’t have more than one child.

It’s easier when little ones have their siblings to play with.

In most households, both parents have to work which means parents have even less time to spend with their children.

When parents come home from work, they are often tired and there are other duties that take priority over having to sit down and play with their children.

From having to prepare meals to assisting older children with homework, there isn’t much time for playing.

This is one reason why it’s become so easy for parents to simply turn on the television and put their children in front of it to keep them quiet and entertained. And if its not the TV, there are always other electronic devices such as phones, tablets and computers to keep kids entertained.

Parents find it easier to simply hand their little one a device to play with. Picture: George Pak

It’s no longer unusual to see children as young as two sitting with an electronic device.

These devices so quickly become pacifiers, babysitters, or used to stop tantrums.

There are apps and games available especially for that age group to keep them entertained.

Of course, some apps are educational but most of the time little ones are more interested in watching their favourite shows or playing non-educational games.

Because parents are constantly busy, children are left to play on these devices for more time than they should.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children between the ages of two and five should be limited to about one hour per weekday and three hours on weekends.

If little ones are left alone with these devices, parents are not always aware of what the children are actually viewing.

Children may be exposed to videos of stunts or challenges that may inspire unsafe behaviour, sexual content, negative stereotypes, cyberbullies and predators and misleading or inaccurate information.

Parents need to try to declare certain times and areas in the home technology-free zones.

These would include mealtime, when they are outdoors, before bed and in their bedrooms.

The risks

According to a journal in the National Library of Medicine, excessive screen usage can also lead to problems in social-emotional development, including obesity, sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety.

It can impair emotional comprehension and promote aggressive behaviour. Excessive screen time can hinder their ability to develop their language skills as well.

Kids acquire these skills through interacting with adults but with the increased screen time and parents spending less time with their little ones, this means that they have less opportunity to develop their language abilities.

Children are spending more time on their devices and not interacting with adults. Picture: thepaintedsquare / Pexels

Many parents don’t even have the time or energy to read bedtime stories to their children any longer, which not only takes away time that they should be spending with their children but also doesn’t allow them to interact with books.

Due to the fact that parents would rather put a device in their child’s hand than play with them, means that kids are no longer playing as much as they should.

While playing just seems like kids having fun, it is in fact important for their development.

Thandi Guzula, a teacher at Lathi-tha School of Skills, shares the importance of playing.

“Firstly it is very important for children to play because play develops them holistically. Play develops physically emotionally, cognitively and socially,” says Guzula.

“When they play their muscles develop, they become flexible and their bones become strong. It improves both gross and fine motor skills. Both small and big muscles develop for example in things like drawing and coordination, in throwing and catching, balancing and jumping,” she adds.

It’s important for children to play. Picture: Robert Collins / Unsplash

“As they grow up they also explore the environment through play because they discover new things, even new skills. Kids who play become happy and they socialise better than those who do not play.”

“They also learn to become creative as they become problem solvers. Playing also improves their literacy skill as they find it easy to comprehend and their language improves because sometimes they get to visualise and dramatise what was read to them.”

Guzula adds that kids who do not play and who always focus on devices find it difficult to share with others because of a lack of interaction through play and their motor skills don’t develop either. Coordination becomes a problem for them as well.

“For example, some of the learners in my school can't even jump because they never learned that skill early. They also lack confidence because they feel embarrassed trying new things, especially the ones they were supposed to learn when they were younger,” she adds.

“So interaction through play plays a major role in children’s development because they also become happy healthy children,” she said.

IOL Lifestyle