Are tech toys a hindrance to learning?

Tech toys are proving a triumph and are expected to be worth $11.3 billion by 2020, but Psychologist of Education Gavin Ucko is questioning whether these latest inventions are distracting children from other valuable learning experiences.

Drones, bots, and kid friendly smartphones are soaring to the top of children’s 2018 wish lists, while it would appear traditional games are dying out.

However, Psychologist of Education and Puzzle Inventor at The Happy Puzzle Company, Gavin Ucko believes that more traditional games are subtle building blocks which help children develop life skills that translate from play to the real world, and the constant use of tech toys and phones could be hindering this development.

Christmas toys may have already been discarded in favour of the next tech fad, but traditional games have entertained entire families through generations.  Games like Monopoly, Pictionary and now 30 Cubed, a new collection of challenges using a unique set of coloured cubes, are games which encourage learning through play.   Gavin explains that puzzles like 30 Cubed help children develop skills in mathematics, thinking, logical reasoning, spatial awareness, sequencing, and visual perception skills – and believes puzzles can be just as fun and addictive as screen games.

Gavin says:

“Learning through play is great for children of all ages, as it increases concentration and confidence in a fun environment. We created 30 Cubed as a joint venture with Ivan Moscovich, who created the hands on Science Museum, as a way to challenge the minds of six-year olds right through to adults. As the complexity increases, so does the frustration with the realisation that your brain is required to work in a way no other game has ever demanded.  The challenges will pull even the most tech-obsessed away from their screen to crack the game – it’s more addictive than any app!”

Ucko is not the only professional to raise concerns that over-use of tech toys could hinder child development.  Optometrist Dhruvin Patel, MCOptom told Thrive Global:

Recent research has shown screens from devices such as tablets and smart phones emit harmful blue light that can cause headaches, eye strain and irritated eyes for children.…and since technology is full of stimuli and often requires paying attention to many different things at once, children who play many video games or spend most of their time online tend to have less of an ability to focus than kids who use technology minimally. It can also affect the way kids process information — when kids are exposed to high levels of technology, they tend to think through things only superficially and don’t develop the ability to think critically or be creative when learning new concepts.”

Gavin believes there is a place for tech toys, but explains that parents need to encourage their offspring to engage with many different types of play:

“It’s all about balance and parents should stimulate their children with a variety of toys and games, to give them the best chance of learning through play. Having a break from the tech in favour of games which require children to think in a logical way, will develop skills which give children more confidence in the classroom when faced with challenges.”