I recently saw a study that looked into the technology habits of children, and some of the results really got me thinking about the benefits of the Cub Scouts experience. This study showed that on average, children between 5 and 8 now spend almost three hours each day in front of a screen. Similarly, 42 percent of children under 9 have their own tablet device, up from just 1 percent in 2011.
While there is no definitive rule for the right amount of time a child should spend engaging with technology, most researchers and pediatricians agree that limiting screen time is better for cognitive and social development. This is why I’m glad Scouting can be a place where kids spend time sharing fun, real-world experiences with their peers and families.
By introducing children to new experiences, the Cub Scouting program helps capture their creativity and encourage exploration. Cub Scouts offers many ways for kids to practice having low-tech fun: going on outdoor adventures, creating cars and rockets through derbies or helping the community through service projects. These experiences not only pay off in terms of development, but they also may start habits or hobbies that last for a lifetime!
Technology has an important place in all of our lives, though, so we also want to educate young people about how to use technology safely. This is why we offer the Cyber Chip program starting in Cub Scouts. Each year, young people can access age-appropriate lessons on topics such as cyber bullying, cell phone use, texting, blogging, gaming and identity theft. It’s a good way to ensure children can experience the benefits and avoid the downsides of devices, while encouraging families to have important conversations about technology.
I hope Scouting family members of all ages will consider making a habit of regularly unplugging to spend screen-free quality time with friends and family. Getting device-free time can require intention and discipline, but it’s a wonderful way to remind ourselves that technology is merely a tool that should facilitate our relationships and interests, not define them.
Yours in Scouting,
Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout