I was waiting in line to buy tickets for a school event. There was a little boy sitting on a chair, holding an iPad. Within minutes, a group of five boys was huddled all around. They weren’t playing with each other. They stood in a semi-circle, eyes locked on the colorful screen.
Why is screen time so alluring to kids?
You’ve seen this happen in your own life. Your children could be in the middle of doing something but if a screen gets pulled out, the kids tend to get sucked in. Here are three reasons why screen time is so alluring:
- Screen time is interesting. There are no dull moments in the world of screens because your child can always navigate away from something if it is not interesting. Drop down menus offer more exciting choices. Everything is centered around what pleases the child. Even how they listen to music caters to their interests. They don’t just have a CD of music they like; they have a playlist that has exactly what they want to listen to. Any song they don’t like gets deleted. When you can create a screen world that is based on your preferences, you have little desire in the real world to pay attention to anything you deem boring, irrelevant, or unpleasant.
- Screen time is instant. If you want to know the answer to “Who was Abraham Lincoln?” you don’t have to take out an encyclopedia or ask a teacher. You can search for the answer on your computer or phone and have the answer instantly. It’s so easy to get information in the digital age. That’s a great benefit but it can also be a curse. Children learn from experience that answers come easily and instantly on screens. If information requires effort to obtain, many screen savvy kids give up. They are accustomed to instant gratification and unfortunately, that expectation spills into other areas of life where things don’t come instantly.
- Screen time gives immediate rewards. When you click on something on a screen, you immediately get a response. A character moves, a ball is released, or a page changes to reveal something new. A child is constantly rewarded for his engagement. Children who play video games learn quickly that if they keep pressing the buttons, they will advance to the next level in the game. Computer programmers understand that kids will play and engage indefinitely if the rewards keep coming.
Since instruction in school isn’t always interesting, instantly gratifying or rewarding, screen driven kids enter the classroom at a disadvantage. Tests aren’t particularly entertaining! Boys and girls need self-control and strong reading skills to succeed in school. These are two skills which are being weakened by increased screen time.
When a screen driven child faces a task that is uncertain, she often disengages and stops paying attention. She checks out mentally when she hears something she doesn’t find interesting.
In the screen world, children are trained daily to get what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. That may hold their attention fast, but it doesn’t sound much like the real world we are preparing our children to live in.
[verse reference=”Proverbs 25:28″]Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.[/verse]