If you have a kid growing up in the 21st century, they are probably spending much of their time in front of some form of screen-based technology. Maybe too much time. In fact, the latest research suggests that teens are spending an astounding 9 1/2 hours per day engaged with technology. Elementary kids are spending about 7 ½. That may not leave too much time or energy for other more creative activities. Do we need to worry about video games stifling children’s creativity?
It is a common misconception that 21st century kids are less creative than kids of past generations because so much of their play is dominated by screens, highly structured games, and pop culture icons. In fact, games like Toca Blocks, Minecraft, and Toca Life: City offer a vast landscape for creativity, problem-solving, goal setting, and learning. If we compare the cognitive demands made upon a child playing a single level board game, such as Monopoly or Risk, to an open-ended, sandbox game like Toca Blocks or Minecraft, video games weigh in as the clear winner.
The research on the creativity of 21st century kids indicates that they are actually more creative than previous generations of kids. Dr. Sandra Russ, a Professor of Psychology at Case Western University and one of the most prominent researchers on children’s play, has been collecting videos of children’s play for more than 30 years. Her studies suggest that 21st century kids are more creative in their play than kids from the 1980s and 90s, even though they have less time for play.
Technology has added a new form of play — digital play — that has opened the doors for many new types of creativity. Whether creativity takes place in an open-ended sandbox game, through a desire to master new technologies, or by creating digital media such as videos, classroom presentations or photographs, there simply are more opportunities to create. However, parents and educators need to be cautioned that too much digital play takes away from the variety of activities that also fuel creativity in children. Parents who want to foster creativity in their kids are encouraged to take some of Adam Grant’s advice and provide children with opportunities to try out new things — including video games and technology — and to get them engaged in a variety of activities.
Still worried about video games stifling kids’ creativity? Take a look at these creative games and apps. You should also see our model of a healthy Play Diet to learn how digital play helps make kids into more well-rounded individuals.
Featured image: Flickr user Ted Eytan