Inspiring natural, happy, healthy families!

Technological Advantages…or Disadvantages? March 7, 2011

Filed under: Raising Little People — My Natural Family @ 12:54 pm

I’m a little concerned about the direction that children’s toys are headed.  Call me old-fashioned, but I seem to recall a time when kids needed to use their imaginations to create something: a castle out of blocks, an airport out of wooden airplanes and Lego’s, a gourmet meal out of plastic food and cookware.  I remember inevitably getting more joy out of building forts with the boxes that my gifts came in than playing with the actual gifts (unless that gift was rollerblades. Best. Christmas. Ever.)  Sure there are still toys like this out on the market, but statistics show that parents are buying fewer stuffed animals and wooden train sets each year and opting for things like this instead:   I’m sorry, but what the heck is this thing and what does it do to benefit our kids?  I’m amazed at the amount and complexity of  high-tech toys that consume the shelves at stores, and the number of laptops that are marketed towards four-year-olds.  While searching for a gift for my niece, I came across a Barbie Video Girl Doll with a description that read,

“With a real, working video camera in her necklace, this Barbie’s a total star (and can make your little doll a star, too!).  She has a video screen in her back and a battery in each thigh—and she’s still skinny as a stick!”

If people were capable of spontaneously combusting from repulsion, I would have.  There are so many things wrong with this particular toy that it’s hard to fit my disgust into one little blog post.  I’m personally against Barbie Dolls period, nevermind the fact that now they’ve gone and reinforced the belief that girls need to be “skinny as a stick” AND made it easier for creepers to record little girls on video.  Barf.

But I digress.  There are of course great toys to come out of technological advances.  The educational aspects of things like Leap Frog and V-Readers don’t seem like such a bad thing; they make learning to read fun for little ones, and who can argue with the awesomeness of that?  But there is too much of a good thing, and I’ve seen it: kids who play with electronic gadgets and games all day, and are therefore rarely required to use their imaginations.  Last time I checked, being active, creative and imaginative are the fundamental building blocks of being a healthy kid, and eventually a fully functioning adult.  These toys, with their flashing lights and pictures, encourage kids to get more excited about “things” than other people.  Kids start to relate to their toys more than their playmates, and to me, that is an incredibly dangerous scenario.  And the instant gratification that these toys provide interferes with a child’s ability to develop patience.  My personal theory is that these instantly-gratifying, hyper-busy high-tech toys introduced at an early age contribute to the development of disorders like ADHD…but I am certainly not a child development specialist nor have I conducted research that satisfies this claim.  I’m just going off my own observations and experiences.  I guess the key is moderation.  A video game or playing with that space-ship-whatever-it-is-cat-thing every now and then can be great fun for a child, but just make sure they get outside and use their imagination on a regular (ie, daily) basis.

What do you do with your kids, or encourage them to play with, that fosters their imagination, creativity, and social growth?


4 Responses to “Technological Advantages…or Disadvantages?”

  1. PygmyPreggers Says:

    NPR had a great report on this topic a couple years ago.

  2. Sara Says:

    I so agree with everything you just said!!! I do like a little technology here and there. . . but note, a LITTLE! I have even noticed the longer my kiddo is plugged in to the tv (bcs that’s the most sophisticated technology we have next to the computer) the more energetic he gets. And in a bad way, not a lets run around out side and play kinda thing. He gets so wound up from unburned energy that he just screeches at the top of his lungs. Then he’s jumping up and down all over the couch and harassing every member in the house. As an experiment I turned it off for a week, only turning it back on after 5 (since Daddy ‘needs’ the tv to relax after work) and that dramatically cut down his tv time from almost all day to 3 or less hours a day. His behavior, interest in food, people and creativity as well as active play improved double time!!! We do a few educational techonology-type toys like the leapfrog toys mentioned above. But they’re limited to one for each child. I don’t limit their time on it, yet. But as they get older and more likely to sit and forget the rest of the world I may have to.

    And lets not forget the adults. Me too. I don’t even have a cell phone, but only for financial reasons. However I know people that can’t function for less than a few hours with out their gadgets working at top speed. We can do everything from all forms of communication, watching tv, reading books and magazines, playing games, research and so much more from technological toys. Yes, toys. . . they aren’t needed. Believe me, you wont die just bcs you don’t have a phone. I PROMISE, I know. Remember, your kids are watching you. So if you’re on the computer all day (my particular vice at the moment) or spend all day ‘playing with your techy toys’ (bcs even if it’s work that’s what they see, playing) you’re kids are learning what to do by watching you. Think about it!

  3. Erin Says:

    I agree completely!! The hard part for me is when my kids’ relatives give us these kinds of gifts. The kids like them, for sure, but they would also like to eat loads of cookies and bowls of ice cream for dessert, if given to them! 🙂 Obviously, one would agree that’s not good reasoning. My kids have an uncle who’s IN LOVE with technology (and a grandma, too). Hence, we currently have a house complete with Leap Frog and V-Tech toys : my 2 least favorite toy brands of all time. My 4 yr old was just given a Leap Frog Leapster for Christmas from his uncle, which is a mini-computer with games and learning activities. If left unattended with this toy, he will sit for 2 hours minimum b/c he is so drawn to it! I am just bothered by toys that do my job as a parent: teach nursery ryhmes, math, colors, numbers…etc. I guarantee my interaction by teaching my kids these things is 100 fold better than my kid sitting there by himself learning something from this mysterious voice from the toy, AND I believe my kids will retain the education longer. My son does not relate well and build relationships with others well yet. Since I’ve noticed this, I do keep a careful eye on his activities with such toys, and TV, too. Because of this, I think these toys (and tv, too) are dangerous for him. It enables him and reinforces his non-relational self to not connect with his parents or sister.

    As far as TV goes, it just makes my kids crabby! And these toys offer a similar effect, due to the nature of the time spent alone with these ‘objects’. When I turn TV on to get dinner made or whatever else done, they feel ignored. I know this! Even though, they would say they LOVE TV! That’s why they get crabby. And who wouldn’t? No one likes to feel ignored. If I let them watch it a 1/2 hour, their behavior isn’t too bad, but the longer it goes, the worse it gets. And then we have tantrums b/c it’s time to shut the TV off.

    So, yes, these toys concern me as well. My son is deeply creative and is gifted to ‘create’….food out of blocks (even though we have play food, too :), towers, robots, machines…etc. out of his non-technological toys. How much better the result will be when we reinforce those giftings by our interaction with him and offer such toys that enhance his development?! A secure child. A child that is praised by his mother and father for his creative accomplishments and show excitement about his creations. That’s what it’s all about for me. When they watch TV or play with such toys, there is little to no interaction between parent and child (unless you are there next to them, of course). A child that plays with too much technology will be hindered by insecurities…in my opinion and observations.

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