Are some types of screen time better than others?

For sure. There's a huge difference between an hour spent shooting zombies in Zombie Duck Hunt and an hour spent learning vocabulary from a smartphone app or composing music online.

That's not to say that everything has to be stamped "educational" to provide an enriching experience. With any screen media you choose for your kids -- movies, games, TV shows, and apps -- you want to look for how it engages your child. And, although there's nothing wrong with a little mindless entertainment, you can maximize your kid's screen time if you consider the "four C's."

Connection. It's really important that kids connect on a personal level with what they're watching, playing, or reading. Are they engaged? Engrossed? Maybe even enlightened? Getting into a story line or identifying with characters primes kids for more learning.

Critical thinking. Look for media that takes a deep dive into a topic, subject, or skill. Maybe it's games in which kids wrestle with ethical dilemmas or strategize about bypassing obstacles. Rote quizzing and simple Q&A-style games may be fun and seem educational, but they may not help kids find deep or long-lasting meaning.

Creativity. An important feature of many great learning products is the ability for kids to create new content -- a new level for a video game or a song, for instance. Kids can feel more ownership of their learning when they get to put their own spins on the experience.

Context. Help your kids understand how their media fits into the larger world. For younger kids in particular, the discussions and activities surrounding games or movies are key. Being with kids while they play or watch, asking questions about what they're taking away, and doing related offline activities can extend learning.

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Comments

Parent written by Jayce8654

This is a very difficult topic for me. I have a 10 year old son(going on 16) who reads and does math 3 grades ahead. I have a 7 year old son(going on '5') who also reads and does math '2' grades ahead. And, a almost 3 year old daughter(going on 6) who is following in her brothers foot steps, and is socially and intellectually advanced. They have grown up in an era of vast technology. We have had computers, Xbox, tablets etc around them for 10 years. I dont know that screen time has impacted them positively or negatively. Screen time obviously comes in many forms. As far as television, my daughter watches PBSkids, and DirectTV has a babyfirst channel, and she loves peppa pig. My sons are getting into sports so we watch a lot of football, basketball, baseball, ESPN, etc. But we also have reading time in between turns on screen time. As well as the boys take turns at 20 minutes at a time so one of them is idle while the other plays and vice versa for 1-2 turns. Sometimes I think screen time is all screen time, other times I believe strongly that they have learned and advanced behind their years due to some of the content we encourage. A lot of grey area when trying to decipher whats "good" screen time, and "bad" screen time ? Thanks
Teen, 14 years old written by bubba0nate

Creativity, yes. I love to draw and build games on the computer, programming is a great way to let kids (who know how to program) be on the computer. My plan at the moment is one hour of videogames on weekdays, one hour doing homework and other non-screen things on any day I have homework to do. and three-plus hours of game-time on weekends. (I play on a weekend-only minecraft server with my family, so my mom often lets me play a "little" extra so I can actually make some progress.) Sometimes, I feel like it's been hours when it's only been one on weekdays, and I have so many hobbies (Whittling, which isn't for kids, as well as knitting, reading, writing, playing with my cats, etc.) that I never am short on things to do. I also have lots of online friends. Not "Friends," but actually people I know fairly well, some of which I know in real life, some of which I don't. I love socializing and chatting on the group chat on skype. I'm relatively active (although school has cut down on my activity) on the forums of games I play, mostly the Mari0 (SMB with a portalgun) forums at stabyourself.net and Cubic Castles. My rule of forums: If I can't know everyone, it's not fun. Anyways, I'm often on the computer but relatively rarely playing videogames. Some days, I completely forget and don't play games because of books, hobbies both on and off the computer, and schoolwork.
Teen, 13 years old written by princessd73

Perhaps video games would be better engagement than television. While TV provides less brain activity (statistically) than SLEEPING, some studies have shown that doctors who play Call of Duty for about 3 hours off work hours perform more accurately- so perhaps this could show certain effects like higher processing of information and fine motor skills in teens. Also, musical stimulation promotes mathematical skills (with whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, etc.) and I would think that having certain games that have a set story-line would promote comprehension, like Legend of Zelda (wherein there is normally limited explicit violence). However, some types of television could be promotional to brain stimulation, like educational channels. However, kids who are not provided with some time to entertain themselves with some mind-numbing Spongebob (or whatever else) might find themselves irritated by the fact that "mom doesn't let me do anything fun!" But coursing a kid to learn to love engaging, thought-provoking, strategically-oriented or artful things would be the right way to go: Why do you think a thirteen year old would talk like this anyway, if I hadn't been raised with this orientation? :)
Parent written by NW mom

Content make a BIG difference for us. Our 6 yr old son is bright, nice, well behaved and well rounded. We don't own any game consoles but he has his own computer with access to certain sites. PBS Kids is his favorite! It has super fun games that teach things like calculating, reading, patterns, logical thinking and a litany of other educational topics . . .at the same time as basic computer skills like typing. The other day he was playing a game to get to the next level he has to pull over the coins onto the checkout and calculate the correct amount to advance to the next one, eventually to the next level. On another he had to figure out how to place the tiles so the biker could get to the end of the maze. It's all super fun and educational too!
Parent written by sherlock1701

My personal recommendation is to provide actual games that encourage positive traits, such as critical thinking, quick reaction, tactical acumen, etc. I started playing real-time strategy games (RTSs) and tactical role-playing games (RPGs) around age 6. It's nearly 20 years since then for me, and as a successful engineer, I can definitively point back to these genres as playing a major part in developing the skills I use day to day. Strategy and tactical games are incredibly good for a young mind. Remember chess? Think of that, but on a whole new level, with many layers of complexity added to it. Don't worry about your kids understanding it - once they can read, they'll absorb as much as you can give them, so long as it's worth their while. Some of the titles I grew up playing: Age of Empires I and II, Empire Earth, Starcraft, Civilizations, Civil War Generals, Command & Conquer, and Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Board games can also be an excellent choice. Plenty of strategy titles are available, just Google "strategy board games". Wizards of the Coast in particular make a number of excellent titles, including the old Axis & Allies games, as well as owning the venerated Avalon Hill brand name (they were a very popular game company a few decades ago).
written by Jimmy brew

Movies are the best screen time. The Internet is probably the least safe screen time
Kid, 11 years old

Yes there is if you let your kid watch the walking dead he will act different and learn different things then watching the discovery channel let then watch the less learning things every now and then and more good things