Digital media is a ubiquitous part of our lives. This is evidenced by the fact that screens are present wherever we turn—in our pockets, at airports, as well as in stores, taxis, restaurants, and more. With this understanding, children are naturally drawn to these in their surroundings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides health and safety tips regarding screen time for kids. They recommend that screens should be avoided for all children 18 months and younger, other than when used as video-communication devices with relatives. As children grow, it is imperative that digital media be used by children and parents together, with co-created guidelines on screen time limits and ongoing discussions about digital citizenship.
Introducing Kids’ Media
Deciding if and when to introduce digital media to your children is a personal preference. Should you decide to, an active experience rather than a passive activity (just watching) is best for children, especially for young children. The best use of digital devices allows children to use them as a tool, rather than to merely consume pre-created material. Children can research, collaborate, organize information, and find new solutions by themselves, promoting creativity and learning.
The technology for kids today will most certainly not be the technology they interface with as adults, so it is most important that children use the tools to innovate and problem solve. Children need very little instruction on how to use most digital tools, but they can be guided on how to use the technology safely to expand thinking, find information, organize, and explore.
Screen Time Recommendations
While there are many games and apps that children can use, a great starting place is the tools within the tech itself. Together with your child, try these ideas to encourage responsible screen time for kids:
Explore the Timer
Young children love to use the stopwatch to see how quickly (or slowly) they can complete tasks. Using this also helps children to understand the concept of time in a concrete manner. With your child, create some fun challenges that they can time and keep track of in a chart or graph. Some ideas include “How long will it take the ball to roll down the hill?” or “How long will it take for the toast to pop out of the toaster?” Decide who will time and who will complete the action being timed. Writing down predictions and results helps children to hone their estimation skills and develop number fluency.
Use the Camera
Show your child how to use the camera and they will soon discover how to use all of the editing and special features on their own. Periodically ask your child to be the event photographer for family gatherings or outings. Afterwards, work with them to compile the images to print and frame or to create a book to share with relatives. Introduce different types of photography to your child and discuss what resonates with them. Some are drawn to nature while others are drawn to food or people. Allow your child to explore what interests them through digital media.
Children love to watch themselves in action. Find opportunities to film children as they tell a story, sing a song, or create a brief mock advertisement. This helps children to further speech development and practice emerging language or public speaking skills. As children grow, help them to use a simple editing app to refine their recordings. Perhaps schedule a viewing party so the whole family can watch the final production.
Try Weather Reporting
Have your child check and create a daily or weekly weather report by using the local weather app that comes on your device. Your child can let your family know if it is a ‘coat’ or ‘no coat’ day, or if an umbrella is needed. Your child can also write out the weather report and post it in the kitchen, or create a chart that shows the high and low temperatures for the upcoming week.
Remember that the best digital experiences happen when integrated with social relationships rather than used as a solo experience. As always, online safety and careful supervision of screen time for children is of the utmost importance. To help maximize the positive impacts of digital media for your family, check out the following additional resources:
- Learn the difference between passive and interactive technology and how you can promote a healthy balance with your children.
- Parenting in the digital age can be overwhelming. Get expert tips on assessing games and apps that your children might be interested in.
- Join us in this webinar as we discuss the challenges of raising children in a digital-first world, responsible technology use, and digital citizenship.