What is your child doing when he/ she uses devices and screens?
Are there ways to choose better screen time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend less than 2 hours of daily screen time for primary school children. It goes on to state that these should be “high-quality content”.
- How can parents choose high quality content?
- How can parents improve the quality of screen time for our children?
(1) Choose Interactive Screen Time
In general, interactive screen time will provide better stimulation and learning compared to passive reception.
- - Examples of passive screen time: TV and videos
- - Examples of interactive screen time: Multi-player games, educational applications that require user response, Google Maps
Five year-old Chase* loves to hold the GPS when travelling. He loves selecting his favourite car and “navigating” it on the iPad. Occasionally he looks up and matches the surrounding landmarks to what he sees on the tablet. This visual interaction between screen and physical objects trains him to interpret a 3D environment from a 2D screen. Car journeys are much more engaging and healthy with such screen time.
Some other examples of interactive screen time:
- - Using digital devices to take photos and make videos (instead of merely watching them)
- - Exploring a trip destination with Google Earth
While interactive screen time usually teaches better than passive screen time, it is also important to scrutinise the content:
- - Harmful interactive content (such as video games where players kill and commit crimes) will teach unhealthy practices more effectively compared to just movies of similar content
- - Likewise, interactive prosocial behaviour is more effectively imparted in an interactive manner
(2) Interact with Your Child Over Screen Time
Besides choosing apps and programmes that are interactive, parents can and should also mediate in all screen time by watching and playing with their children. It will be even better if you follow up with questions to stimulate your children’s thinking.
Eleven year-old Elizabeth* used to interact regularly with friends over online chats and Google+. One of her favourite sites showed a post that gave users a “sexy name” based on their month of birth. Her father (who would interact with her over Google+) talked to her about how “sexy names” promote a demeaning image and attract the wrong kind of friends. Elizabeth responded by blocking similar sites out of her own will (2 years later, Elizabeth also distanced herself from schoolmates who send her such content).
Research shows that when parents discuss negative content on screens with their children, the children fare just as well as those who do not encounter these negative content.
In the digital age where it is difficult to ensure a sterile media environment for our children, interaction and processing is KEY to cyber wellness. Interactive screen-time is a powerful teaching tool for young children today. Do not allow it to shape your child’s mind in unintended ways. You can help your child get more out of technology.
(*Real names have been changed)
In our previous parenting workshops, we covered many more practical ideas for parents to manage the use of devices and cyber wellness for their children. Look out for our upcoming parenting workshop, to learn more practical tips to handle online activities when your children are at home, and gain further understanding on how different games and apps can affect your child.
Register your interest here to be informed of our next parents’ workshop!
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