Traditional vs. Electronic Toys: Should parents restrict children’s gaming time?

By Dave Sebastian, 

In buildings, on sidewalks, or at public parks, you may no longer be surprised at the sight of a person’s stopping suddenly, swiping his or her index finger to catch a Pokemon — the Pokecraze is real.

Before Pokemon Go, phenomenal gaming apps such as Angry Birds and Flappy Bird have also conquered download buttons and served an intersection of ages: Be it for children or parents, the games have been enjoyable for many.

To the cringe of “90s kids,” we live in an age when toddlers can be easily spotted rolling through tablet screens more often than rolling around toy cars. Scores of apps can be stored in a device, to parents’ convenience, instead of keeping boxes mounted with toys. Some parents have also proceeded to use tablets or smartphones as educational devices.

But that growing penchant for technological advancements may oftentimes lead to undesired impacts to both parents and children’s interactions.

Parents’ use of electronic toys as the means for educating children can reflect lack of flexibility in teaching methods, according to a 2012 University of British Columbia research (Wooldridge and Shapka). After observing 25 mother-toddler pairs who intermingled with traditional and electronic toys, the research found that mothers tend to “dictate” ways of playing a specific toy — if equipped with automated features.

“[I]n the electronic toy sessions, there were fewer incidents of mother matching the child’s pace and preference in play,” the research stated. “It has been argued that a narrower range of outcomes associated with electronic toys may limit the child’s (and parents’) ability to play in novel ways and/or may elicit more directive or intrusive parent management of play.”

In contrast, traditional toys that emphasize manual operations resulted the mother-toddler pairs in having more “joint attention.” Children’s cognizance of toys’ features and meaningful interaction with parents, the research stated, are related to the effectiveness of learning.

The fun of recreational games, if uncontrolled, may also lead to harmful psychological effects. Among game addiction’s effects on children include stress and social withdrawal. Such effects were demonstrated in a 2011 study on 600 secondary school students in South Korea (Jeong and Kim).

One result the study found was that adolescents who were less engaged in direct social relationships experience weaker self-efficacy — the confidence of the ability to accomplish tasks in physical environments.

The study, which was published on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal, also mentioned that parents’ use of technological devices can directly influence their children’s use of such media.

Yet nowadays, infants face the virtual world from the minute of their births: Facebook posts celebrating the glee of a newborn, or charming pictures of toddlers posted by their elated parents, have been commonplace. Nevertheless, parents play a crucial role in setting early directions in children’s education and entertainment.

Although traversing across the city in quest of Pokestops may have already been an inevitable family bonding time, parents can also find this reminder handy: We can let children consume technological features, but we should never let technology consume children’s well-being.

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