Why is ParticipACTION launching a campaign called Make Room For Play? You would think the last thing in the world you’d have to do would be to convince kids to play more.
And you’d be right, but what the ParticipACTION campaign aims to highlight is the way electronics, the Internet, iPads, and overall screen time are getting in the way of old-fashioned active play. Jumping, climbing, throwing, catching in parks and the outdoors are being squeezed out, as the organization’s subtle, thought-provoking commercials suggest. (You can watch one of them below; we love the closing caption, “Don’t visit our website.”)
More than just commercials, ParticipACTION’s Make Room For Play section on their site allows children and parents to examine just how much screen time play is pushing aside active play. The facts they report are shocking: “Canadian kids spend an average of seven hours and 48 minutes a day in front of screens. Over the course of a week that’s more time than their parents spend at work.”
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. My 7-year-old helped me fix my phone the other day. And my niece, all of 10, is staggeringly well-versed in all the apps we grown-ups use. Kids need to know how to grow up in this electronic world we all inhabit. But when kids are choosing screen time to the exclusion of getting outside, they’re missing out on learning important movement skills, not to mention the benefits of being outside.
As our own Richard Monette wrote in a recent article, in the past, kids were able to learn basic movement skills by playing popular games: kick the can, tag, and hide and seek. But the games that are popular today, the games that kids like to play because they are good at them, are sedentary. Instead of learning to run and jump they learn to handle a joystick, a keyboard, and a touch screen.
This is something we parents can, and need, to fix. It starts by teaching your kids how to manage their screen time.
Besides, we all like to play, so making some room for it shouldn’t be that difficult.