Gamified childhood: Are digital devices replacing traditional playtime?

By | October 25, 2019
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Girl sits on sofa using tablet, a pink teddy bear next to her
(M Health Lab/Getty Images)

Blocks, books and bikes used to be the staples of childhood. But as more kids grow up with a seemingly endless menu of virtual activities offered through digital media, child development experts worry about the wane of traditional playtime. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who is addressing the topic at the national American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in New Orleans, has even coined the phenomenon “gamified childhood”.

“Free, unstructured play promotes interactions that boost vocabulary, nurture parent-child relationships, and encourage social skills and creativity. Play helps young brains develop,” says Radesky, who is leading the AAP session. “But mobile devices are becoming an almost unavoidable part of children’s worlds. We hope to demystify the design differences between technology and classic toys and help parents increase open-ended play experiences for their children.”

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