Gadgets over piko: How Pinoy children have changed
MANILA, Philippines – We see and hear it all the time – adults complaining how children today have become too dependent on gadgets and the Internet, and how most of them do not know how to get their hands dirty and stay under the sun.
Some kids even have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts and know “Angry Birds” more than piko or tumbang preso, others lament.
Indeed, technology has greatly changed how children play, said Play Pilipinas executive director Sigrid Perez, a former educator and school administrator. Her group, which puts up playgrounds in different parts of the country, wants to bring back outdoor play to children amid the popularity of tablets and smartphones.
“We are for pure, unstructured play,” said Perez, adding, “Although video games can teach you a lot of skills, for us, just giving them the moment to play and be children, that is already a gift to them.”
Play Pilipinas recently tied up with the Department of Education and Johnson and Johnson for the “Di Lang Laro ang Laro” (Play Is Not Just Play) campaign, which is aligned with the UNICEF’s Early Childhood Care and Development Program and the World Health Organization’s recommendation of at least 60 minutes of active play daily for a child’s physical, mental and social development.
The campaign involves the use of television commercials, print advertising and the Internet in support of the advocacy.
At the sidelines of the launch of the “Di Lang Laro ang Laro” campaign, Perez, a mother to eight children, sat down with ABS-CBNnews.com to share her thoughts about how kids today have changed, and how parents can do their part in controlling their exposure to digital devices.
What are the differences you’ve noticed between children then (today’s adults) and now?
The world has changed so naturally, children and adults adapt to these changing needs.
Just one concrete example is technology. We now have everything in our fingertips. Since you have more access to news and what’s happening around you, there is a growing fear in parents – they do not want their children to go out. We call it “stranger danger” – there’s always the danger of being kidnapped, trafficked, all these things. More and more, parents are becoming more fearful of their children’s safety and security. So they keep their children at home with their gadgets.
Plus the fact that population-wise, there are a lot of people within the city. More buildings are being made, so there’s less space for them to play.
The environment, the pressure for work and to keep up with the cost of living is always at the back of the heads of parents. All these really change the play habits and attitudes of children over time.
Economics is still the driving factor. Little do they know that while they’re planting these seeds – education and safety provided by gadgets – they’re also removing from them that time and space to be children, to be individuals.
What is your stand on the use of technology in children’s play?
We (Play Pilipinas) recognize that we cannot do away with technology, and we’re working around and with it, actually. We have to accept the fact that children now have their own gadgets, at least in the middle-income families.
There are some good factors to it, such as you learn eye-hand coordination and strategy with those gadgets. But there has to be some limitation because there are certain skills that you are not able to develop that only active play can answer, such as motor skills and sense of balance and coordination. You don’t get that just by tilting your phone or by pressing those little buttons on your gadgets.
As with anything, there has to be a sense of moderation and sense of balance. You have to develop your mind just as you have to develop your heart. You have to develop all your other skills. You have to develop your whole self.
What, in your opinion, is the right age for a child to play with a gadget?
I remember one time, a lady asked me: “Is it wrong for me to put my child in front of ‘Baby Einstein’?” I told her, “Nothing can replace human interaction. Yes, while it may provide some stimulus to your children, the best stimulant is you.”
In fact, there is a global recommendation that for kids ages three and below, the maximum is one hour a day of screen time. That includes the phone, the iPad, and the television.
Children should be able to move their muscles. Gadgets as babysitters? It’s quite scary.
When it comes to your children, how to do you set/control their playtime?
In my children, they can only play on Fridays and Saturdays up to Sunday morning. They take turns because they are too many, they’re eight siblings. They manage themselves.
Any tips that you can give to parents when it comes to playtime for their children?
You don’t need expensive toys. One of the things we tell the parents is if you come from a structured day, like in school, give them that one moment where they can just be themselves. You can use anything – a pot, a spoon or a fork. You’ll be amazed at what they do. You have those boxes? They can use that and pretend it’s a house.
These items have more play value because they’re only limited by their own mind. Some toys are very close-ended – like one would tell you how to pronounce a word, and that’s it. There goes your P5,000.