“According to Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a therapist and research associate in the department of psychiatry at Harvard,many fast-paced video games makes kids feel revved up, excited, empowered – it’s like gambling for adults – and when they come off that game they feel regulated, agitated and grumpy, just like anybody does coming off of a powerful stimulant.
We need to be the gatekeepers and regulate use for their own wellbeing. Expectations and contracts need to be negotiated together in order to steer clear of a summer-long battle. Define what role screen time plays in each day – “you need to figure out right amount of screen time versus play time off screens, camping time, family time, reading books time, and unstructured time,” says Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.
While educational apps can help kids sharpen developing brains and hone other skills, fast paced games keep kids engaged so much that they can loose their motivation to be creative on their own. “Minecraft can be a great game, but they need to play with Lego,” she says. “It’s essential for parents to not let the siren call of the digital playground delete the outdoor playground, particularly in the summer.”
The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that American children spend seven hours a day in front of electronic media.” For children to develop their full intellectual, creative, innovative brain pathways, they need to play in the 3-dimensional real world,’ adds Steiner-Adair, who advises a few days off screens and then one to two hours of screen time sessions to diminish frustration of having to unplug too soon and it allows for the strategic thinking benefits of quality games to be realized.
Be sure to manage the quality of their digital diet – just like their eating diet. In this busy world it’s easy to let them consume junk but it doesn’t contribute to keeping them healthy long term.
Studies show that being distracted on your device and distracting kids with devices can result in a weakening of good family connections and “that’s the last thing any of us want,” adds Steiner-Adair. Check out commonsensemedia.org for age-appropriate games and app suggestions. Don’t be fooled by fake educational games. Always check out what your child is playing.”