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The effect of digital games on children and our youth

Sitting at the Delhi airport and waiting for my flight back to Vienna, Austria. When looking around it is almost impossible to miss out on the reality, that at almost every corner children are sitting with a smart phone in their hands. The age ranges from two to fifteen years. By counting I can say, that out of almost 50 children, 47 are seen with an electrical device like smart phone or computer game in their hand.

More and more teachers but also many grandparents ask what I think about this usage in modern times. Is it healthy? Does it cause damage? Does it help children to become super smart? Many questions are in the minds of people including the parents themselves.

Surely, handing the smart phone or a computer device to a young child as well as putting them in front of a television is like handing the child off to a babysitter/nanny. It always amazes me how fast children become quiet, as soon as they sit in front of such a device, watch a movie or play games. These devices seem to have a kind of magnetism that catches the attention of each child immediately. It also is surprisingly how long a child can concentrate when sitting in front of such a device. It seems to be way longer than when playing an ordinary game or with a toy. So, I understand completely why it is very interesting for parents to use these devices during periods of waiting, when they are busy doing some work, wish to engage in a talk with friends or if they are tired.

Observation of an ordinary day of parents

Looking at an ordinary day of a mother/a father the entire day is filled with work/housework, completing something important, calculating numbers, engage with neighbors, family members or friends, waiting at the bus station/in clinic/etc. and so on. So we can say the entire day is filled with adult stuff. Listening to parents daily life sounds sometimes like listening to a managers life and it sound like if there would be no time for engaging and interaction with the children anymore. And it is right. The more women and men engage in the business life, the less family time is available. This also means, that children are handed off in front of smart phones and TV more often. This is the reason, why we really have to look into what these devices do to our young generation and what is healthy or too much.

Occurring problems notices in excessive use

What we must understand is, that computer devices and video games are a dimensional unreal world.

Most of the time only one to two senses in a child are activated. The other three are completely left out. Seldom there is smell, taste and touch of the object. Especially very young children understand the world by touching it. During the first years, they place everything in their mouth and grab it with their hand, throw it to the floor, shake it and understand its shape and function by using all five senses. Science tells us, that this dimensional world in children who mainly learn via computer games and IT learning programs already during the first years, are not developed in the same way.

A second important factor is the development of the wrist flexibility, which the child needs to write, draw and paint (includes as basic need for the subjects language and math).

A third important factor is, that the online-learning program or computer game wants the child to do things in a very particular way. It allows most of the time only one or very limited solutions. While each person is a creative mind, usually different people have different ways to get to a solution. Thereby, the creativity of children becomes narrow and limited.

There are more factors that I could address here, but those are the prime factors, that influence the life of young children and their parents immediately. Now do we say, that handing the mobile phone to a child or allowing the child to play a computer game is bad in general. No. I recognized also the importance to accept, that children of the 21st century are born in the world of technology and IT. We cannot separate the child completely from such devices. Adults who constantly function as role models show the child the importance of the device by constantly and permanently using it themselves.

Personally, I do not recommend handing any electronical device to a child below three years. Their cognitive development is not yet enough. As long as a child would go the television and try to blow out the candle which it sees there, it shows clearly that the child cannot yet separate the real and the unreal world. We should not put children in such ages and development stages in an unreal created dimensional world of IT.

Surely what it needs is balance. Children need movement, fresh air, toys, communication and interaction with the parents. They need drawing, art, sports and all the possibilities, which give a balanced growth. Parents know their child best. While for one children 10 minutes of electronical interference twice a week may be enough, another child may be able to handle 10 minutes five times a week.

Parents need to constantly watch their children, their need of movement and their behavior.

What are signs, that the technology-consumption is too much?

  • After watching TV or using video games or learning games on smartphones …
  • The children start moving or running uncontrolled. Once I observed a boy, who got up from the game and started circling around the table over and over again so that even his parents became nervous. The circular movement in a small space is seen by wild animals which are held in caves that are too small for them.
  • ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder.
    When a child can’t look into the eyes of another person and does not interact or engage with the other person.

What we recommend to parents as solutions

If a child has any of those problems, immediately remove all electronical devices for at least three months and use as much alternative toys, games, natural materials as possible. Interact and engage with the child and give the opportunity to learn with the five senses. Let the situation become regulated again.

I am not telling you here, that electronical devices, computer games, smart phone usage in children cause these kinds of disorders. This is the job of Doctors and Neuro-Scientists. What we clearly could see in the twenty years’ practical work with children is, that when precautions have been taken, the situation of children improved or where able to be regulated way better.

Marion Hopfgartner
Education & Life Transformer

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