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Screen time for kids: making it positive

Like it or not, screen time for kids is here to stay.

And let’s face it, screen time for kids isn’t all bad. Although extended time glued to a screen has been shown to cause some behavioural issues in kids, it’s also a great way to help them connect with their peer group and learn in an applied and engaging way.

Wanting children to be tech savvy is understandable.

In an age where we don’t really know what the jobs of the future will be, it is more important than ever that children are at least familiar with the gadgets on offer. At the same time, we should be mindful of the risks associated with too much screen time.

Why?

What’s the problem with screen time for kids?

In a sign of the times, Ofcom estimates that 3 to 4 year olds are spending three hours a day in front of a screen on average. This increases to 4.5 hours for those children aged 8 to 11.

The fact remains that, as many parents are working longer and longer hours, screens sometimes have to be used as virtual babysitters. A variety of figures, such as well known child psychologist Dr. Sigman, go as far to suggest that many children in the developed world will spend more time in front of a screen than they do in school over the course of their childhood.

Given such developments, it is unsurprising that parents want some help to make the most out of screen time.

ipad: screen time for kids

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What can you do to help?

#1 Check your own screen use

We all know that kids are like sponges. When it comes to behaviour, they’ll absorb how parents behave more than what they say. So … when with your children, try to limit the amount of time you spend on screen.

Research shows that 70% of children think their parents spend too much time on screens. Kids will see double standards if you enforce rules without checking your own screen use.

It’s easy to become distracted when there are so many things going on. On occasion, try to stay away from multitasking, put the phone down and focus only on your child. Establishing family rules can help with this, with both adults and children being clear on screen time rules. You could start with having no screens during mealtimes or in the hour before bedtime.

#2 Use apps to monitor and limit screen time

It’s worth remembering that Steve Jobs himself didn’t allow his own children to use ipads at all, with the New York Times describing him as a ‘low-tech parent.’ You don’t need to go this far, but it might be a good idea to limit screen use where possible.

There are a wide range of apps now on offer to assist you if you choose this strategy. Even the shareholders of Apple are encouraging their engineers to develop software that would enable parents to monitor and ultimately limit screen time. Here is a list of apps to get you started. They often allow you to give them a go for free.

#3 Make screen time positive

You could explore any of the following home learning activities to help your child make the most out of screen time:

  • Allow your child to choose something they are interested in. Ask them to research this topic online and present their findings.
  • Ask your child to write a blog on a topic of their choice.
  • It is difficult to balance reading and screen time. With book apps, you can combine both. Children can find these really exciting! Here are some book apps to get the ball rolling.
  • Use screen time to engage an online tutor to build your child’s confidence.
  • Take advantage of the explosion in the number of podcasts on offer. Whatever your child’s interest, you’ll be sure to find something that appeals.
  • Encourage your child to watch something that will eventually lead them away from the screen. Why not try watching a video on how to cook something. Then, go and actually cook it with your child. Don’t hang around and watch whatever video comes on next; get to the kitchen and start enjoying time away from the screen.
  • Allow some use of on screen leisure games. We all need an escape. Used in the appropriate quantities, they can be part of a healthy repertoire of screen time.

We hope this gives you more of an understanding of screen time for kids, and if you’re looking for more ways to make their screen time positive, try our list of free home learning resources.

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Ellie Williams
Ellie Williams
Third Space Learning
Content Team
With a love for all things KS2 maths, Ellie is a part of the content team that helps all of the Third Space Learning blogs and resources reach teachers!
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