Giving childhood back to our children

Two boys play in a river in Kon Tum Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands in 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoc Thai

Give childhood back to our children: If we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less. –Peter Gray, U.S. psychology researcher and scholar, Boston College

Here’s my latest essay for VNExpress International. (The Vietnamese version was published on 2.1.23.) Here are a few excerpts:

It’s a delight to watch children engage in free play when they have the chance to let their imaginations run wild. Recently, I saw a young girl in a Ho Chi Minh City restaurant pretending to eat soup out of her bowl, spoon in hand, before the real food arrived. I asked if it was delicious and she responded with a smile as her face lit up, “Yes!”

During a recent visit to a clinic in Hanoi, I saw a toddler full of energy running around and exploring his immediate surrounds. I heard his mother tell her mother, “I’ll get the phone.” She proceeded to open a program for children and the little boy went from active explorer to passive consumer of canned entertainment.

It’s sad to see children glued to a smartphone or tablet playing a game, watching a video, or mindlessly scrolling looking for God knows what, knowing the deleterious mental and physical effects of game and Internet addiction. While their parents or grandparents think they’re making them happy, they’re stunting their intellectual and emotional development.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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