When media consumption becomes more important to children than playing

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In the past, our parents had to force us into the house when the weather was bad, today it’s the other way around. More and more often we have to force our children to go outside, to visit friends, or even to invite them. Parents sometimes despair of the new, fully networked “virtual” world of their children.

Media addiction – even toddlers are affected

The media have become an indispensable part of everyday life. Almost every household has a smart TV, several cell phones, tablets and PCs. So far completely normal in this day and age. However, younger and younger children spend their free time precisely on these media. The children sit in front of the television early in the morning, and when they return from daycare, there is very little interest in analog games. They would rather watch their favorite series and spend the afternoon on the sofa. Studies show that the desire for permanent media consumption is already strong among three-year-olds. Realistically, you already run the risk of later media addiction.

Children’s social contacts change

The change in the children’s social contacts is worrying. Your interest in playing with friends is reduced. Even when guests are happy to visit, they will soon be asked about the television or tablet. Playing together (and at the same time imaginatively) is becoming increasingly difficult for the children. They quickly get bored and no longer know what to do. They simply unlearn how to actually play. They rarely seek contact with other children of their own accord and do not spend their free time in the garden or on the playground. Your social contacts increasingly consist of fictional characters.

More and more concerned and perplexed parents

This development in children leaves worried and sometimes perplexed parents behind. Because the separation of the cord from the child’s friends up to the “media junkie” is often very creeping and flowing. Many parents do not realize the changes until late. Of course, at that moment they blame themselves. However, these are out of place. Because if the child has literally already fallen into the well, it doesn’t have to stay that way. With specific rules and a lot of patience, the children learn to have fun with “normal” games again.

Actively reduce media consumption by children

The first step for parents is to think honestly and reflectively about how much media consumption is available to the child on a daily basis. Of course, the child should not be forbidden from any contact with the media. This idea can hardly be implemented today. 30 minutes of television a day – or a learning app that can be played on the tablet from time to time is perfectly fine. The times for this should be discussed and determined with the child. Media consumption is already within an acceptable range.

READING TIP: How do I recognize media addiction in children?

Offering alternatives – and awakening the joy of playing again

Children quickly find fun playing again and are happy to hop through the garden with their friends. Sometimes they just need a little nudge in the right direction, or some creative incentive. Doing things together as a family instead of spending Sunday afternoons on the sofa can be a nice start. You can also support the children by inviting old friends to play. The old friendship quickly blossoms again, and the children experience many shared (and exciting) moments together again.

It is actually rather easy for children to find joy in their own toys and to learn to play “new”. Because this is precisely what is in their nature. The instinct to play is – just like curiosity – innate. It is often the case that children, even with old friends who they have not seen for a long time, suddenly sit down again at long-forgotten toys in order to re-enact scenes and things that simply correspond to their current world. As a mother, you almost wanted to take all the stuffed animals to the junk, and suddenly they have new names and are really into hiking (Whatever it is) – and have to sit at the table with dinner again!

In this way, it will not happen that the tablet eventually gets dusty and is forgotten in the corner. But if you keep your children on the ball while they play, and keep giving them suggestions on how to incorporate their current interests into play, you will definitely be able to prevent a real media addiction.

READING TIP: Everyday life with children in the corona crisis




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