Parents who constantly occupied their kids with technology were raising less resilient children, Skillbuilders Therapy Services managing partner Penny Melsom warned.
Ms Melsom, who is an occupational therapist, said resilience was key to ensuring proper development.
Skillbuilders Therapy Services provided support for children and families across Western Australia.
“The most important thing in the big scheme of things is resilience, from an emotional health, mental health and physical wellbeing point of view,” she said.
Ms Melsom said children being constantly engaged with technology was largely to blame for the decline of this lifelong skill.
“To get kids off technology now, it’s really hard because it’s so engaging and entertaining for kids,” she said.
“As a parent, you’ve got to compete with that to get them outside.”
Run Free Kids founder and early childhood teacher Jenelle Altinier said technology was preventing children from reaching their full potential.
Run Free Kids offered school holiday sessions and school incursions that encouraged free play and individual creativity.
“When a child spends time using their imagination through creative activities instead of sitting in front of the television, an iPad or a video game, their creative potential is given the chance to grow and blossom,” she said.
“They are taking less risks, they are not problem solving as much, they are not doing enough physical activity, they are not connecting with nature, they are less confident in the great outdoors… all essential skills for growing up and living a healthy balanced lifestyle.”
According to The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, children aged between four and five had nearly double the one hour recommended screen time every week day.
Ms Melsom suggested parents keep screen time to a minimum and encourage children to entertain themselves.
“Allow them to get bored so then they have to think and create and come up with ideas themselves and do that with the next-door neighbour’s kids… that’s what builds their problem-solving skills and it builds their interaction skills and their negotiating skills,” she said.
Parenting author and educator Maggie Dent said interaction with other children was vital for a child’s development.
“I have serious concerns about how our digital children will navigate their world socially and emotionally as these human competences are only formed through spending hours interacting through play with other children in the present moment,” she said.
Ms Dent said free play helped children acquire skills they would need when starting school.
“All young children need lots of movement and autonomous play, the opportunity to interact with other children of different ages, and the chance to develop some of those skills at home that they might need at school,” she said.