On Gaming – Green Time Before Screen Time

Green Time Before Screen Time

Remember this, print it on your shirt, put it on the wall in your home and clinic.

For every hour lost to immobility (or limited mobility) engaged in screen time, there is an hour lost that could and often should be spent in robust, global development. Primarily, I’m referring to children in this case because they are the primary consumers of screen time and electronic devices. Similar principles apply to adults, though they are obviously at a different level developmentally being ‘fully baked’ more or less. We want, above all else, to ensure that children are not harmed during development, including monitoring their full potential for cognitive, social, emotional, and motor skill development.

Parents struggle with the question of games/devices – how do we occupy our kids when it’s cold out? When it’s dark? When we’re driving? When they’re ‘bored’. There is a growing list of ‘reasons’ why parents feel compelled to relent and allow their kids to resort to (retreat to) their devices for diversion, distraction, and often to hide or find comfort.

I, for one, can say that there is a life beyond the addicting pull of eDevices. Necessity is the mother of invention, while the comfort of addiction is the bane of growth and creativity. There are several good reasons to limit screen time, not least of which is, like junk food, it fills the gap with something that is lacking in nutrition, to the exclusion of healthier things.

Let’s break this down one key point at a time. Let’s assume we want our children to realize their potential, their full potential globally. We should, then, ensure a healthy nurturing environment replete with myriad multisensory experiences.

  1. Gaming limits physical development. Gross-motor and useful fine motor skills are not be developed while gaming, to some extent motor skills can and will degrade if limited to the narrow spectrum of motor planning required for use of a gaming controller – fine button pushing movements are of no practical use in the real world. At the same time, children are having more trouble writing, and this to the extent cursive has been widely deprecated in curriclum.
  2. Gaming occurs under stressful conditions in darkened room. There is more than ample evidence that stress in darkened rooms can lead to worsening myopia/nearsightedness. Gaming strongly restricts the ambient light found outdoors, and this kind of lighting has been shown to a kind of ‘fertilizer’ for eye health – in the sense that the eyes not only need full spectrum lighting, they demand it for proper development.
  3. Gaming provides an easy road to compulsive, addictive behaviours. All the attendant signs of addiction are there – short attention, short temper, compulsive and uncontrollable behaviour that interfere with daily activities and relationships. This carries over into schoolwork, obviously, with generational damage done not only in lost physical development, but lost career opportunities. Game-addicted children will show intolerance to sitting still, reading, concentrating, and will appear as though they have ADD/HD.
  4. Gaming limits cognitive development. The problem solving skills in gaming amount to parlour tricks, that is, tricks and ‘skills’ that really only work in that environment, but have no practical purpose anywhere else. It is widely recognized that sedentary children living in a rarified environment will show slowed intellectual development i.e., the appearance of lower IQ.

Gaming and endless hours scrolling through social media should be viewed as junk food – tasty and distracting morsels of wasted time that ultimately lead to malnutrition when consumed to excess on a regular basis. Not long ago, boredom drove creativity and compelled families to spend more time together filling that time through play and work. Yes, work.

Alternatives to gaming are many, including but not limited to

  • Close time with family. Just being close, quiet, dreaming, planning, exploring ideas, looking at the stars. Consider using this time to read as a family/group, and to write ideas in journals – create habits that last a lifetime.
  • Knitting, sewing – practical, fine motor skills that save money and open the eyes and mind to the world of fashion and fast fashion.
  • Cooking / baking – again, practical, money-saving skills that promote good health, self-sufficiency, economizing, and fills the house with amazing aromas.
  • Full body play. See Core Four for some examples and discussion on this. Get young bodies and minds moving – imagine the floor is lava and walk on cushions and furniture to avoid it; crocodile walk up/down stairs; log rolling down hills, tumbling; swings / climbing equipment, and so on.
  • Gaming. Board games, building games (think Jenga), cards – all great excuses to develop social, intellectual, math, and fine motor skills. My favourite for young children is to work fine/mid-motor skills through marble play on table tops.
  • Hobbies – just about anything other than gaming. Literally thousands of choices out there.
  • House Chores: Cleaning as a team, fix the car (normal maintenance, or more advanced even), chop wood, build with tools… again, all things that save money, build self-reliance, work as a team. Don’t be afraid to have children use adult tools, learn adult things – safely, on a level that is accessible to them.
  • Learn about birds and trees: Get outside, bring a reference, learn about the geology, geography, and natural world outside. Being in nature confers immunity, increases respiration of clean air, bathes us in sunlight. Learning about our environment is a wonderful way to get exercise while expanding knowledge, and seeds respect for our natural world.

Parents and developmental professionals need to discourage gaming, there is no alternative. Gaming offers nothing in the way of meaningful physical, cognitive, or emotional development but prevents these from being developed through constructive work and play. We also need to recognize gaming and screen time as an addiction as serious as any other, one that should be avoided and treated as any medical concern.

The message, then, is to seek alternatives to gaming. Period. See it for what it is – addiction to junk food.

2 thoughts on “On Gaming – Green Time Before Screen Time

  1. A quick and easy read, well written and informative.
    The advice is sound and helpful.
    I hope this will get the audience that it deserves … and that needs it.

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