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The best of both worlds

Merging screen-time with traditional activities and hobbies by Karen Bach, founder of KalliKids.com

Screen time versus offline time is a balancing act.

It’s no great surprise that children spend a lot of time looking at screens, although interestingly it’s less about sitting in front of the TV these days. Even toddlers as young as 12 months, are no strangers to swiping and scrolling apps on an iPad. But we need to ask ourselves, is that wrong?

Children must be tech savvy to survive in our digital world. Much of their school homework requires the use of a computer so they need to understand how to operate devices from a young age. The truth is, technology is amazing and it offers our children so many opportunities but it can also be a little stifling if it’s not balanced with a good dose of traditional offline activity. Children need exposure to a vast array of different experiences to develop and grow both physically and socially. As with most things in life, it’s about mixing it up to create a broader spectrum of experiences.

Technology is here to stay, we know that and to a degree we accept this. But we should also use the pull of ‘digital’ to our advantage. Encouraging children to balance their out of school time between technology and trying new activities and hobbies that take them away from the screen can only be a good thing.

Headlines repeatedly tell us that our children spend too much time in front of screens. A recent survey* showed that only half of children play outdoors for 2 hours per week or more; but rather than wrestling with this, we could look at technology and the internet as a channel to more traditional or physical activities.

For example, there are many art and craft apps available via tablets which could be used to inspire offline creativity. We might be creating an image on an iPad but could we transform that image into a 3D sculpture using materials and objects we have at home?

Research also shows that 60% of school age children spend less than one hour playing a sport at a club each week*, so on the same token, could we use an online sports app or game to encourage a real game of tennis or other sport? Why not create a challenge for your child to see if they can achieve similar results or scores playing the sport offline as well as online?

Playing games online as a community against friends is another popular past time for children, but what if a car racing game being played on a games console could inspire a trip with friends to your local go-karting track or a play date themed around Formula One?

It won’t be possible to do this type of activity every week but it is about creating the distinction between being online and having fun and being offline, socialising and living the experience for real.

Children’s behaviour changes when they are using technology or devices and the way they interact and respond is different to when they are offline. But this doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

If we encourage a combination of both while using different approaches to make the link with offline activities, we can retain those important life skills.

Balancing traditional hobbies and outside interests will make a huge difference to a child’s wellbeing, social skill and emotional development. They are massively important in terms of nurturing an early interest in being active, taking risks and trying new things.

Perhaps the next time we read an article warning us of excess screen time, or we worry about the impact the virtual word is having on our children’s lives, we might attempt to think about it more creatively.

If technology is here to stay, we might as well embrace it while being mindful of the importance of living in the real world.

Traditional interests and hobbies are part of human nature and regardless of the draw of the digital age, it is unlikely that we’ll ever completely walk away from those things. We just need to remind ourselves, and our children. about them from time to time and, more importantly, always remember to keep the balance.

 

  • KalliKids is a free online resource that connects over 90,000 parents with quality-checked, children’s activities and services across the UK. Sponsored Child 2016 is a charitable initiative created by KalliKids.com to give all children an equal opportunity to take part in a quality-checked activity, free of charge for a period of one year.  Learn new skills in anything from swimming and playing the piano, to dance, tennis, mathematics and more. Any child can apply for a Sponsored Child place – applications are open now: Findout more here.

 

*Source: Vision Critical commissioned by KalliKids, March 2015.

 

Image: Kiran Foster