Kids And Screens: Not All Screen Time Is Created Equal
Screen time, we've heard that phrase before, and being a parent, you've probably agonized over creating a screen time policy for your family. You understandably want a policy that reflects your family values, and you also want to consider your child's wants, needs and expectations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a go-to resource for parents on screen time guidelines, has determined that not all screen time is created equal. New research is changing the way parents look at screen time, and challenging parents to examine the quality of the time spent in front of devices. Quality is especially important when your children are seeking screen-based entertainment - games, shows, social media - and this is where family policies get tricky.
How much online entertainment is too much? Can there be too little? The team at Star Stable Online - makers of the world's most popular online, horse adventure game - recommends parents get involved with their children's online activity, monitor their online behavior, explore their favorite games, shows and activities, and create a family screen policy that is more than just "hours or minutes."
The conversation around screen time is less about time and more about active digital engagement. If you do not recognize all the activities they're enjoying online, this is a great opportunity to ask questions and create a dialogue about their digital habits. To help you determine whether your child is enjoying quality screen time, the team at Star Stable Online recommends these questions to get the conversation started:
* Do you interact with other kids online? This question helps you determine if the child is building social skills in a safe, online environment. Parents must determine if the game or online activity promotes positive social and collaborative play. Star Stable believes collaborative play, along with a safe environment, is more beneficial and inspires kids to become content creators, not just passive media consumers.
* Do you solve problems in the game? This question helps you determine how the child interacts with the game and what he/she learns from playing. Determine if your child faces challenges in an environment that is constantly changing and expanding, forcing them to adapt. Find out if they need to use their best reasoning skills to complete challenges independently or as a team. Star Stable believes that unique challenges that force kids to think outside the box are preferable to games that serve up constant repetition.
* What does success look like and how do you feel when you succeed? This line of questioning helps you determine if the game is building your child's personal character. Does the game include storylines and activities that promote responsibility and respect for others? If your child interacts with other players, ask how that makes him/her feel (happy, motivated, helpful or strong).
* Have you learned new vocabulary while playing the game? This question helps you determine if reading is a big part of the game or if it's all visuals. Reading is a fundamental life skill and any screen time your child is involved in should provide an element of age-appropriate reading. This will push your child to expand their vocabulary and even help to grow a lifelong love of reading.
* Have you learned anything about money management? While this seems like an odd question, screen time solutions should do more than simply provide children a way to spend money, they should teach kids how to manage money or currency. It's not a "must" for all screen time choices, but games or activities that provide a weekly allowance certainly help reinforce money management skills (spend, save and budget).
The screen time debate is no longer a matter of hours or minutes, but how your kids are investing time interacting with a screen. Ultimately, it's a balancing act of time and quality that will help your child build a positive digital footprint and smart screen time habits that can serve them their entire life.