Balancing How Children Play between Low-Tech and High-Tech

Written by Rita Kennan

Establishing healthy harmony between technology, sports and pretend play helps kids develop the social skills they need to succeed.

Finding balance for our kids is something we're all interested in doing, especially during the summer, when it's all up to us.


Help your children find outside, low-tech activities that can become a valued part of their routine.
Give them gardening tools and basketball hoops scaled to their bodies. Help them find the good climbing trees in your neighborhood and safe places to bicycle or rollerblade.
High-tech play is seductive for the parents as well, in that it provides a form of (seemingly) cost-free babysitting. Think about whether you may, in the process, be short-changing your child.
Set limits. The trick isn't to eliminate high-tech play but to keep it in balance with other kinds of activities.  
Balance between structured activities and open-ended leisure time. Balance between high-tech and low-tech play. Balance between playing at things they love to do, and tackling those skills requiring discipline and tenacity. Balance between having a great time being a kid, and learning the practical and moral lessons that will help them grow into happy and responsible adults.


San Francisco Bay Area teacher and educational consultant Susan Richards believes that far too many parents have opened the floodgates to high-tech play for their children without fully considering its long-term effects.


"Low-tech play," she explains, "board games, sports, building something, playing pretend or just running around together involves social interactions that are simply missing even from side-by-side, high-tech play in which each kid is on a solitary quest of some kind or in the role of isolated warrior."


Richards believes that parents need to think about their own child's personality in rationing high-tech play. "For kids who tend to feel socially isolated, or impatient with social interactions anyway, TV, Gameboys and other high-tech toys can deprive them of opportunities to become more aware and empathetic and increase their social attention span."


Generational issues are also an important factor that's been largely overlooked in the consideration of high-tech play, says Richards. Parents are effectively barred from the arcane and (to an adult) boring worlds of Pokeman and other popular games that offer not just amusement for children but a sort of alternate reality.


"One of the really lovely things that's being lost here," Richards says, "is the opportunity for one generation to pass down its games to the next. High-tech is also, most usually, an indoor activity, and kids really do need to have lots of time outside, breathing hard and using their bodies."

Richards concedes that banning all high-tech play is simply unrealistic but urges parents to think about the issues involved and to encourage low-tech alternatives whenever possible. "Low-tech requires more time in terms of adult participation, encouragement and oversight. But it's well worth the time and effort," she says.

"After all, our kids only get one childhood, and what they do now is going to have a tremendous effect on the kind of lives they'll live later on."

Twitter: @SuccessTV

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