There is no question that for many teenagers, technology is their best friend. Whether it be the cell phone for texting their friends, Xbox Live for playing the newest online multiplayer game, Facebook for hours of social media engagement, many teens spend the bulk of their time utilizing technology. The fact is, many of these new technologies, particularly those involving social media, are incredibly alluring and powerful for teenagers forming identities and connecting with their peers. Sometimes spending time with family, practicing a sport or artistic endeavor, or simply being outdoors pales in comparison. It is not rare to wonder if a teenager is addicted to video games.
As much as the team at LearningWorks for Kids recognizes technology as a powerful tool for learning, we also strongly believe that children and teens need to be engaged in a variety of other play activities. In today’s world, teens often need a bit more encouragement to prioritize non-tech activities, and adults need to find ways to make these traditional forms of play more available and enticing.
A recent television advertisement for Chevy’s Silverado truck brings this issue into light. The ad, entitled “Convert,” portrays a father and a “son who’d rather play computer games than go camping.” Dad (with his new truck) presents the young man with an opportunity to experience mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, and the star-filled night sky. And the teenager appears not to miss his technology, readily embracing nature instead.
I actually do not find this advertisement to be totally unrealistic. There is no doubt that in today’s digital world, we (parents, educators, and other adults) need to work harder to bring our children these inspiring opportunities. This means that we have to shut off the TVs and other screens and make the effort to demonstrate how stimulating and enriching other activities can be for young people. At LearningWorks for Kids, we believe in the power of video games to educate and develop cognitive functions (see our page on the Science of Play), while we recognize that a variety of play, beyond digital, is important and necessary.
For more information on balancing your child’s recreational time and optimizing the benefits of the digital technologies that are integral to their daily lives, read about developing a Play Diet for kids 14+.