Gaming, Texting, Facebooking, Watching TV – all dominate young peoples’ lives – is it a healthy relationship or is it damaging?

For me, one of the things which I have a profound memory of when I think back to my childhood is how much I enjoyed playing outside. It was either playing in the neighbourhood or roaming far and wide from home. I could have been playing with kites, riding a bicycle or just doing other things with my peers that I considered to be fun.

One notable feature of modern life is how much time children spend indoors. They derive a great deal of pleasure from their smart phones and tablets. This is in addition to the fact that the TV is on all the time, playing in the background. I’m not saying that this is how things are in every household, but certainly it is so in many – especially when the parents are not at home.

When I come to think about it – a typical middle class child goes to school, does one or two sports a week, and plays one or two musical instruments. For a boy, football, cricket, basketball or rugby may be included in the activities they do and for a girl – ballet, modern dancing, or gymnastics – depending on the age and so on. One should never think just doing a couple of sports and perhaps playing one or two musical instruments is enough for a child to cope with. It is certainly not an excuse for thinking that as long as they do two or three other activities outside their schoolwork, it is fine and we should just let them spend endless amounts of time on some computer or other mindless electronic device. It has to be borne in mind that children have an amazing capacity to learn and it is vital that they are encouraged, persuaded or forced if one has to go to that extreme. I’m not advocating physical force at all as it is pointless and there is no place for that in the world we live in. It is actually the opposite as it is natural for a young person to want to learn new things and to want to stimulate their mind. Actually they really do not have to be forced  – it’s all about guidance and dialogue and putting conditions in place that enable them to channel their energy in the right direction.

It is vital that they use their minds and energy more. It helps to develop a routine that makes them do things that stimulate their minds – making the best of their time and energy to participate in a wide variety of activities. This will certainly help to fill some of the vacuum that electronic gadgets now occupy.

Outside of their schoolwork there are numerous activities that are just as important for their development as the academic side of things. Some of those are reading for pleasure, doing Maths or Science for fun (usually with other youngsters), art, music, sport, dancing, drama, climbing trees, playing games, (including computer and other electronic games), surfing the internet, playing and perhaps play-fighting with their close friends or siblings. All these activities are absolutely vital for their development and they should at least try quite a few of them in the process of exploring and finding out the one they enjoy the most.

As you may have noticed, I’ve included playing computer games and surfing the Internet in the mind-stimulating activities I listed. Gaming does stimulate the brain and it is one of the activities that young people should be doing. However it is just one of several others and too much of it is not good for them. Sadly, for too many young people, they invest too much of their time and energy in computer related activities and I perceive this state of affairs to be very unhealthy. I have a sad story of a relative to tell. The boy in question is now 19 years old and he has not done much with his life since he left school over three years ago. He spends over 20 hours a day in his room – surfing the Internet and playing computer games. He does nothing else apart from that. He does not socialise and he is unable to stay in any job he has had for more than one week. The parents of this boy are quite well off and they are also very caring people, but he has still ended up in this situation. I know that this is an extreme case of someone who is addicted to computers, but it shows what can happen when a young person spends too much time on them.

Leaving aside extreme cases of addiction to computers, there are other issues that are associated with young people who spend too much of their time at their screens – such as health related and other problems. I have seen a negative correlation between over reliance on computers and other electronic devices and poor performance in school.

What one has to think about seriously is the notion of opportunity cost – meaning in this case, the time they spend at the screen of their device is time they could have invested in doing other activities that may well contribute more to their growth and development. In my next blog, I will tell you a little story about the risk I took in letting my young son loose in the kitchen! I did that because I was trying to prevent him from spending too much time on his electronic device.  Be sure to read my next article.

Please make a comment and let us know your thoughts after reading this.