Right now plenty of families and kids are spending time in front of screens, and parents are concerned about the increased screen time. But let’s not talk about screen time, at least not in the sense that it’s about limiting the exact minutes spent with interactive media. Rather than the amount of time spent, we should look at the quality and mindfulness of the media usage.
Our kids are seeing media devices everywhere. There are smart TVs, tablets, phones and computers all around. And it’s not just us adults that use them, as kids use digital tools for entertainment and research, to look up toys and facts, and especially lately for video calls with their grandparents.
Children are learning how digital technology can be used for socialising and interaction, not just passive entertainment. So rather than thinking of screen time, it’s important for kids to understand how, and for what purpose, the digital tools are used, and when not to use them. There are plenty of ways to support a child’s developmental goals rather than inhibiting them. Here are a few hints and advice on how to incorporate digital media into a child’s life, in a productive, healthy way.
Parents should consider how a kid’s time is used. The focus should be on the development of their communication and interaction skills, topics that they are interested in, or might require further practise in, and usage of their digital tools. Some skills can be honed through digital tools such as games, but many things are still best when practiced in real life. We should ask questions such as whether gaming takes away time from something else or does it replace other media time? Is there some way I can participate in it, do we have games we play together? Each child is an individual, their interests and needs are different. Consider these when choosing media and the specific games to use.
It’s essential that the content kids consume and interact with, is age appropriate and suitable for them to watch and interact with. There shouldn’t be ads or other inappropriate content.
Social media gets criticized for being a hostile environment that enables bullying and misunderstandings. Younger kids shouldn’t have access to this kind of world yet, but instead, they might gain a lot from practising their empathy skills through games like Pango Sheep and Old Man’s Journey.
Another important part of letting kids use digital tools, is that the parents should accompany them and guide them in their usage, discussing the interesting topics together. Especially with younger kids, parents need to help find the words for the feelings and experiences. Family time watching and playing together is a fun, shared experience where kids can show and teach their skills and interests.