quarta-feira, 1 de junho de 2016

American children rarely watch TV and don’t have their own cell phone – and that is a good thing

Is been not so long that I’ve been working as a part-time nanny and babysitter in San Francisco. To contextualize, a nanny is someone that goes routinely to the child’s house, get involved in their routine, education and take care of him consistently. A babysitter is someone that goes to a family’s house for only some hours, usually because parents will have a night-out and need someone to entertain the kids while they can take care of their own life.

Since I began working with childcare I’ve met roughly 10 different families. Different in a literal meaning: some of them have strict rules, others are laid-back. Different habits, manners, culture. One thing they have in common, though, in 90% of the experiences is that kids have a screening time limit. And that is great.

By screening time limit I mean no more than 30min per day to watch TV or playing in their tablets. Is not 30min of Netflix in the afternoon and one video during lunchtime and before sleep. It’s 30min at the most in their entire day to watch their favorite cartoon or a Youtube video.
Do you know how they spent all the time left? Playing. Reading. Doing some task or project. Whenever there isn’t free access to the TV or internet, children spent the time being, well, a child. The youngers explore their toys and books at the maximum. That doesn’t mean they have a room full of modern (and expensive) toys. They just play with some Play-Doh, Lego, stuffed animals...  And when they want to relax they get one book and read. Or listen to adults reading for them. And really start to get interested in it.

Today I was reading a Facebook post (in Portuguese) about a personal banker that was fascinated when some customer’s children were reading while their parents were being attended at the bank. I immediately thought – these kids don’t have a phone to kill time, and that’s not because their parents can’t afford a phone, but rather because they choose to not buy one, and that is the best choice they can do for them.

I’m taking care of a sweet 2-years-old girl that is learning 3 different languages at the same time and doesn’t watch TV, except by a weekly 20min show. Can you guess what she likes to do most when she’s at home? She looks to her books and listen to me or the parents reading histories and creating new ones. Every week they go to the public library to rent a new book and she loves it. Someone has any doubt of how smart she will be, how easy it will be for her to assimilate information, focus on one task, be creative and attentive?

Child’s stimulus to play and read since the early ages are strong and broadly disseminated here and that is not related to parent’s availability or money, but rather to keep a habit (and control it) to not make screening part of their kid’s routine. Whether they are stimulated to read and play with their toys and phones and tablets are not present in their household for free use, they don’t miss it. Time is filled in different ways, much more stimulating. Certainly these kids are much more capable of focusing on other activities and more prepared for the real world.