As adults we are very concerned with the psychological well being of Our children. As much as it is a cliché to say it, they certainly do represent the future. Looking back over the past decade, there is no denying that the landscape in which we raise kids has changed drastically. Perhaps things started to change in the 80’s when we first played Atari’s “Pong” and started watching MTV. Those “advances” in technology glued us a little more to our sets. The 80’s of course was just a harbinger of what was to come.
Today’s kids stare at one screen or another on average of 4+ hours per day and they send an average of 1750 text messages per month with many children pushing the number way above 5,000. One 13 year old featured in the news was proud (and not admonished by her parents) for sending 14,528 text messages in one month which converts to 484 text messages a day, or one every two minutes of every waking hour.
I recently took my 4 year old to a popular café in my town. We sat at the end of a long table with 8 teenagers at the other end. I was fascinated to observe the teens sitting absolutely silent, the only indication that anyone was sitting within close proximity to us was that the table top was vibrating from their cell phones. Not only were the kids not speaking to one another, they seemed oblivious of one another’s presence. It was as if each teen were in a cocoon just staring down at a phone and texting.
I have tried to find something positive about their behavior and try as I might I can’t. I even read about a small obscure British survey that claimed that kids who text, read better than those who don’t, but the eighty eight child study failed to give me hope. For these teens the promise and rush of the incoming message far outweighed the value of their face to face interactions.
The time that kids are staring at screens is passive and non-productive time and in the case of the teens described above, ill mannered and detrimental to relationship building. I am supportive of downtime, television time and computer time; I am also supportive of using the cell phone and text messaging to relay information, but not as a hobby. For proper cognitive development children must stay occupied with activities that grow their brains. A child’s brain is not fully formed until between the ages of 18 and 21.
Instead of sending multitudes of little messages or updating their social networking sites with photos of themselves, children’s time could be better spent doing a variety of activities. Working on critical thinking skills, playing sports, building meaningful face to face relationships, relating to others, and developing creativity and imagination are all behaviors that kids must pursue to become well rounded adults. It is important that they have uninterrupted blocks of time to focus on the task at hand. A cell phone that vibrates every 2 minutes of the day disrupts a child’s focus and never allows her to become fully absorbed in the activity.
Doing arts and crafts is a terrific way for kids to occupy themselves constructively. Arts and crafts projects are wildly popular with people of all ages and stages and can be done alone or in groups. From painting and jewelry making, to cake decorating, there are activities for every personality and skill set.
Arts and crafts challenges kids to plan, tackle, and complete something. Children must learn to focus on the task at hand and pay attention to detail, traits they will need to complete college and be successful in their careers. Arts and crafts aid children in developing whole brain thinking for better cognitive processing. Arts and crafts teach children to use intuition and perception. And arts and crafts help kids acquire knowledge by the use of reasoning.
Arts and crafts train children in patience. In a society where our kids are being bombarded with instant images, messages and information, craft projects train kids to wait. Fortunately crafts projects do not provide instant gratification because kids have to wait for paint and glue to dry, clay to be fired and mediums to setup. Although life comes at kids fast, arts and crafts can teach them that not everything they desire is delivered to them immediately. Impulsive behavior can be dangerous, costly and self defeating. Learning that some things are worth waiting for is an essential lesson. When kids believe that their needs must be met immediately they risk great disappointment and lives filled with impatience, anxiety, stress and anger. Arts and crafts are an excellent vehicle for teaching kids to enjoy the wait and anticipate the outcome.
As adults it is important that we assess the impact of the behaviors our children choose. Just because it is cool, hip and everybody is doing it, doesn’t make it healthy. Because children’s brains are not fully formed they are often unable to distinguish between those behaviors that have a negative impact and those that have a positive impact. Activities such as arts and crafts are positive and should be encouraged and embraced.