Kids are naturally curious. They will ask adults all sorts of questions but still have room for a few more. As they grow up, they learn more about their environment and as they learn, raises more questions about how the way things work. While we adults often get annoyed by this endless barrage of questions, kids actually learn a lot and it helps them have a better understanding of the world at their young age.
Kids are also in their formative years of development where most of the life skills they know (conscious or subconscious) are learned and harnessed. It is why the experts suggest active play for kids because nothing limits their imagination and they learn more from their experiences than any classroom lesson can teach them. They also develop valuable social skills that they only develop while interacting with other kids or the people around them.
However, overexposure to gadgets limit the growth of a child’s brain and learning by providing instant answers/ gratification to their questions or needs rather than allowing them to learn things as they go. It has a negative effect not only on their health but psychological development as well and can hamper their growth throughout the years.
The concern being raised by parents and child development stakeholders in Dar es Salaam over the effects video games on the young must urgently be acted upon by authorities.
There are hundreds of video game centres in the city, and they all seem to be doing good business. It means thousands of our children have been sucked into an indulgence that has a potential to spoil their mental, intellectual and physical health.
Granted that the world has changed and Tanzanian children cannot be wholly detached from activities associated with computer technology, but the issue is: how much time are our young spending in video games?
The truth is, whether a child plays on a portable unit, a television or the Internet, excessive gaming can affect his or her life. Experts warn that video game addiction can be as problematic as gambling and affects players as young as eight.
Parents are supposed to be fully aware of the effects of a video game compulsion if they are to keep their children’s hobby in check. This advice, however, can only be valid in advanced economies where virtually every home has a computer, an Internet access, or where most parents can afford a portable unit for their child.
Technology is addicting. We all know it. As adults who also grew up with some form of technology for entertainment (think of Family Computer, Gameboy, and good old TV), you can get lost in it for hours without realizing it. And not only is radiation bad for our health but the act of indulging in digital play can wreak havoc on the mind and the psyche too.
In a society like Singapore’s, where academic excellence in children is lauded over anything else they do, it can be difficult for parents to understand the importance of sports in a kid’s life.
But the role that sports plays in children’s development cannot be underestimated as it helps them in many positive ways.
“From a psychological perspective, sports and outdoor play are essential in helping a child learn social skills and team work,” said Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Hospital. “Every sport has rules, and learning to observe them helps the child to understand the need for discipline.”
Repetitive training, and respecting the coaches, referees and team members, or even simply turning up for training as scheduled are important in building one’s discipline, he added.
“Learning discipline and perseverance will bring the child a long way in his academic success,” he said.
The experts have spoken, yet again. Overexposure to technology will never do us any good, especially young kids who should be recognizing the different colors, textures, and smell of their surroundings but miss out on these important educational childhood milestones because they are glued on their iPads or tablets for hours on end.
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.
This addictive effect is why Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, calls screens “electronic cocaine” and Chinese researchers call them “digital heroin.” In fact, Dr. Andrew Doan, the head of addiction research for the Pentagon and the US Navy — who has been researching video game addiction — calls video games and screen technologies “digital pharmakeia” (Greek for drug).
As responsible adults, we have the responsibility to look after our children’s health and well-being and make the best decisions for them, even if that means taking away their precious gadgets and dealing with their tantrums until they get used to not always relying on these technologies to ease their boredom.
A happy and healthy childhood should be filled with exciting and memorable experiences out under the sun or in the dirt, exploring whatever the world has to offer and experience everything first-hand and not learned from others. Only then can a child fully develop sensory and motor skills that are crucial to functioning normally as an adult. Remember that Technology is there as a means to make our lives easier and not control us, as to how smart gadgets have seemed to control us over recent years. Save your children from the dangers of these things and rest in knowing that you did your best in rearing your child in this technology-crazed world.