How can you ensure you don’t spend most of the holidays arguing about how long your children spend in front a screen?Screentime is a hot topic and one of the biggest concern among parents these days. Many of us are sensibly tensed about our kids overusing smartphone and gadgets, and the potential dangers involved in doing so.
As parents, we should understand that our children are growing up in a vastly different world than the one we experienced. They have more access to technology and information than any other generation before them. And thanks to globalization, so does the rest of the world. In the next 10-20 years, our kids will be forced to compete for jobs on a global scale. As parents, we have a responsibility to ensure that they are ready for this competition. However, many parents are crippling their children by not engaging with them about the media they consume and restricting their phone usage. We all know that the more you try to force your teen away from something, the more they’re drawn toward it.
So, rather than snatching away the devices, teach them to use the screentime wisely and productively. Allow your child to spend more time on productive screen-based activities that are benefitting them. Limit the low-quality media that have no clear benefit, or that may actually be harming your kid.
How do you decide which screentime is productive and which screentime is your kids? To some extent, I think this depends on you, your child, and your family situation — ultimately it has to be your decision as a parent.
However, here is a list of screentime activities that I feel can be beneficial for kids and may help you to make screentime productive for them.There is a wide range of different activities here, but they all have a few things in common: they actively involve kids, rather than relegating them to passive media consumers; they provide opportunities for kids to learn, explore and grow; and they have few or no commercial aspects to them.
- Kids using their creativity. Kids can build weird and wonderful structures in Minecraft. They can draw pictures on an iPad or can take photos to document their lives and surroundings.They can make music or can create time-lapse and stop-motion movies. Screen time can let kids explore their creative skills.
- Kids exploring their interests. Children can learn about the galaxy, or birds, or a thousand other topics through apps, games and websites. They can download apps like Nat Geo app, Earth 3D etc
- Learning while playing games. Kids can learn about space with Kerbal Space Program. They can brush up their maths skills with a range of apps. They can use websites and mobile games to learn a new language. Puzzle games and strategy games can also teach kids planning, numeracy and problem-solving skills.
- Communicating using technology. Children and teens can connect with friends via social media, or they can chat and socialise using messaging apps. But, make sure they don’t speak to any strangers. You can use parental control app like Nischint to monitor your child’s social media remotely.
- Playing together using multiplayer games. Video games with multiplayer elements can be a great way for kids to play with their friends online. Family-friendly Minecraft servers like Cubeville, Towncraft, Crazypic provide a safe environment for kids to play with others all over the world. Kids can play chess or Scrabble online with other players. App versions of high-quality board games such as Carcassonne provide hours of entertainment and social play for the whole family.
- Using apps and games to keep fit and active. There’s a huge number of games for the Xbox’s Kinect controller that kids can play by waving, moving and jumping around the living room. The Nintendo Wii console also has many fitness games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Then there are apps and games to help with a wide range of outdoor pursuits, from geocaching through to bird spotting, running and cycling.
- Watching suitable TV shows. There are some fantastic, age-appropriate television shows that both educate and entertain kids, and encourage kids to think. It’s also good to watch quality TV with your kids so that you can reinforce good viewing habits and provide guidance.
- Reading eBooks and book apps. There’s a big range of high-quality eBooks and picture book apps for kids. There are fiction books to fire kids’ imaginations, as well as nonfiction books that can inspire, educate and inform children.
Hopefully, this list has shown that there can be many benefits to using screens wisely. Perhaps it has also given you some ideas for productive screentime ideas that you can try with your kids!
All screentime is not the same
Of course, it is possible for kids and for that matter, adults to overdo screen time. Too much screentime can affect your posture and cause a variety of ailments. There is some evidence that gadgets are addictive. And there are inherent risks with kids using social networking sites and apps.
What’s more, it is all too easy to use a device as a babysitter, entertaining your kids while you get on with work or jobs around the house. This can result in your kids getting a lot more screentime than they otherwise would.
However, as I’ve shown in this article, all screentime is not bad. It depends an awful lot on what you’re actually doing on the screen. There’s a big difference between watching maths trick on youtube and watching inappropriate content on youtube.
For more hints and tips on helping your kids use media responsibly, you might like to read our previous article on screentime.