Does the present generation of children involve in lesser play in comparison to earlier decades?
How play in early childhood is changing?
Even a cursory look around our neighboring area suggests that the present generation of children, falling under the early childhood period, is not much involved in the play. Unlike sports, for which India is addressed as a cricket-crazy nation, and cricketers are revered akin to Godly thing, ‘play’ seems to be a little absent from our early childhood period. The most common play-thing, the absence of which is easily identified and remarkably understood, is ‘Group Play’.
Since the 1970s, India is identified with ghettoization, and the much recent trend of urbanization is also much skewed, which is not at all comparable to the western definition of urbanization in any terms. Gurgaon, the so-called IT capital of North India, became hot trending news, not because of IT startups or launches, but because of waterlogging, and the problem was so deep-rooted that DC Gurgaon has to impose Section 144. Too much unregulated city planning and real estate development has taken place in India and that too at a much faster pace.
Sunday’s Times of India, one of India’s most-read newspaper editions on Sunday, carried a piece of very big news that according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, at least three cases of rape took place every day (in Delhi) in 2015, though police and child rights activists agree that the actual number could be much bigger. What is alarming is that around 20% of the criminals involved in sexually abusing children are themselves juveniles. Of the 7,730 cases of abduction reported in Delhi last year, around 60% were of children. Police said in most of these cases, the children were sexually assaulted. According to the Centre for Child Rights, 53.2% of all children are sexually abused, with 20.9% suffering severe abuse. (Times of India, Sep 4, 2016)
Availability of Smart Phones, Virtual Games, and the wider option of Television programs seems to have increased the screen time of the child, even in the early childhood period. Screen-time is taken in such a casual manner that one of the most advertised school curricula is called ‘Smart Class’ and it is just a screen-based application attached to each classroom.
Television and Computer & Mobile Games are being considered such a nuisance by the parents that all sellers & manufacturers of ‘Educational Subscription Activity Boxes for Kids’, in their advertisement writes only this punchline ‘this box would help you to keep your child away from TV’. And, these all ‘Activity Boxes’ are targeted at children in the Early Childhood period.
Thus, our common sense tells us that, Indian children are heavily missing ‘play’ in their Early Childhood period.
There is no remarkable research being carried out in India relating to the topic ‘how the play of children has changed in the past few decades in India’, but a prominent research ‘Is Free-Play Declining? – Children’s Pastimes and Play in Sixteen Nations by the University of Illinois, has some great insights about India. Besides India, this study had covered children in Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam also.
This popular research – Is Free-Play Declining; observes that 88% of Indian children watch TV often, when not in school. Thus watching TV often has been attributed as a big factor aiding the decline of free-play.
Another research paper- Overburdened School-going Children: Reflections from a Small City in India by Rashmi Pramanik, notes that daily Homework and Holiday homework are also big factors aiding in the decline of free play.
Play is continuously changing. The form of play is also changing. Each generation had faced or is facing its issues, concerning play. People having spent childhood in 1960s time had enough space, enough time, but were not able to involve in enough play, due to no encouragement by elders/adults and fewer types of toys. Present-day children have several options concerning toys, encouraging adults, but several issues are coming up as obstruction or challenges. Some issues are transportation time, school routine, TV viewing, (still) less awareness with parents.
However, I feel that it would be highly unwise to attribute reduction of playtime directly to the TV, Mobile, and Digital Games, etc. People are looking for an opportunity to involve in play and also venture into natural settings. One big example of such change is a game- Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Go is a popular location-based augmented reality app, which requires gamers to move out of their homes and onto the streets, water areas, parks, streets, gamers need to involve in walking, running, brisk walking, and be agile. Above all, presently it is the most downloaded app.
Thus, we need to re-look at all obstructions which are constraining ‘play’ with a fresh perspective and address challenges with a changed outlook.
People are changing, lifestyle is changing, several obstructions have come up, but equally several opportunities have also sprung, if playtime is declining then it is time to re-look into each element with a different eye, an eye of 2030 because the present-day child will have adulthood around 2030.
Will it be our superficial understanding, if I hypothesize that the present generation of children involves in ‘lesser play’, in comparison to earlier decades, or would it be a reality?
What could you do to understand these changes in play during childhood?
D’Agostino, Heidi. DeLong, Raeka. Singer, Jerome L. Singer, Dorothy G. Is Free-Play Declining?: Children’s Pastimes and Play in Sixteen Nations, University of Illinois. 2009.
Pramanik, Rashmi. Overburdened School-going Children: Reflections from a Small City in India, Childhoods in South Asia, Pearson Longman, 2007.
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