I admit it. I’ve let my grandchildren download games on my iPad and let them clang and whistle and zone out. I’m not proud of that, though. It just seemed like the easiest route when they were in a squabble or we were going for a long car ride.
But as a grandmother, I know the danger of too much screen time. I know that the average teen in America spends over nine hours a day on a screen, and that frightens me. I know that screen time means…a lack of imagination.
As an educator, I know how screen time changes brain function, visual processing, auditory processing, and doesn’t allow for proper fine motor skills development.
Sure, some games allow imagination. Like Minecraft or the Sims. There are more, but still, the child is left with a lot of parameters and can only grow to the extent of the game.
Did you know that they now have Legos designed for girls? Morgan loves these “characters”, as she calls them, and she gets to change their clothes and personalities on a whim.
This was quiet apparent to me one day when my darling grandchildren were building something out of fake Legos on my iPad and I looked over to see a giant tub of real Legos undisturbed. “Turn that off and play with some real Legos,” I crabbed.
Grandmas hate to crab at their grandchildren, but really? It was too much for me.
On Friday, my six-year-old granddaughter, Morgan, spent the night. We broke out the Legos and started building a mansion. There were no instructions, no guidelines. Just a tub full of newly purchased, girl-themed Legos. We had pinks and purples and dishware. We had unicorns and Elsa and Anna. We had carriages with golden wheels.
By Saturday, we were in it full force, and even though my to-do list was too long and my stress level too high, I sat with her all day. We built that mansion and we came up with a sacred baby guarded by laser fields. Later, when she talked about the “secret” baby, I realized that I had relied on my own imagination and the sacred baby became the secret baby.
We built and changed and grew and talked. Things that upset her came up. We made jokes, and I was amazed when she picked up on a pun. What really left me in awe, though, was how she never once asked for the iPad, television, or a game on my phone. She never wanted to do anything else. Her imagination ran wild all day long…her attentions span on high alert.
Nine hours or more of screen time is right around the corner for her. But for now…for today…it was all good, old-fashioned imagination!