A friend of mine tells me his 3-year-old loves to play computer games. He shares that fact with equal parts pride, alarm and shock that she can navigate some of them better than he can.
He’s not alone. According to a new survey, 61% of American children between age 2 and 5 can play such games, and 70% in the U.K. and France can do so. For an alarming (?) point of reference, only 14% of 4- to 5-year-olds can tie their shoes.
Remember when tying knots was a huge developmental marker? Is that traditional stepping stone being replaced by opening a web browser—which 34% of these very young children can do?
I’m not a parent, but my mind still races. Do kids this age need to play such games more than they need to learn basic life skills that help hone fine-motor skills and prepare them for future tasks? Computer skills are important, too, but where’s the balance between a round of Angry Birds and getting dressed? According to the study, which included several developed countries, fewer kids can ride a bike than play a video game. So how are today’s kids different from us back when we lived in primarily analog?
A spokesman from the study said in a company blog post, “True, many of us had television, Atari, and the ultimate destroyer of innocence, cable. But none of these distractions so drastically and quickly reshaped the childhood experience as the computer and what ultimately formed its heart and soul, the Internet.”
I don’t want the Internet forming anyone’s heart and soul, least of all our children’s. But how do parents find a good balance between traditional skills and digital savvy?