Not all screen time is bad, in fact, there are many benefits for kids using technology.

In today’s world that is increasingly more dependent on electronics, it can be challenging to remember we’re still in the early phase of truly understanding technology’s risks and benefits to our youth.

There are many articles out there that discuss the detrimental effects of excessive screen time, especially in early developmental years. But, could we be missing an important opportunity to discuss the benefits of the digital age? 

We know that too much screen time has been associated with early developmental delays, increased irritability and difficulty focusing to name a few.

I’m not disputing the concerns associated with excessive screen time. I am asking you to look at the other side of the coin. From my experience, both personally and professionally, there are few things in life that are ALL good or ALL bad. 

What Parents Say Are the Benefits of Screen Time

To test this theory, I asked some experts and by that, I mean parents. Here’s what they had to say when asked what they see as benefits to screen time for their children.  

  • “My child actually taught himself to read… from a website.”
  • “Playing games with my brother offered bonding opportunities.”
  • “Games like Minecraft really get my son excited about building things. He usually plays for a bit then on his own will stop and start drawing houses.”
  • “I think the positives of screen time include teaching them to get their work done before they get to the fun stuff and it gives them something in common with their peers. Playing games like Minecraft has given my child an easy way to talk to kids at his school about something most kids can relate to.”
  • “Homework completed on computers has been helpful to my son, who has ADHD, as he struggles with focus on handwriting.”
  • “Each of my kids have used screen time positively to interact with their friends.”
  • “In middle school, the kids need to become more responsible. Using a laptop to check email, use group chats, etc., is helpful to keep track of school projects.”
  • “My son misses many social cues. Allowing him to play mainstream games, like Minecraft, helps him socially. Video games is a language most kids know and gives him an opportunity to participate in typical conversations at school.”

The Benefits of Screen Time for Kids

In a review of this narrative feedback, I’ve categorized the benefits into the following:

  1. Educational
    Many apps and online games include educational components including further development of reading and math skills. Regular use of educational apps can further solidify learning from the classroom as well as provide individualized instruction to improve knowledge base while combining learning and fun.
     
  2. Social
    There are social benefits of screen time including common language among peers. Particularly for individuals with developmental delays, this benefit can offer some children a significant social benefit. This benefit must be balanced with proper parental controls and screen limits to prevent excessive usage.
     
  3. Creative
    Children can be exposed to a variety of creative outlets through technology. “Creativity” is as unique as the individual expressing it and, as stated several times in the quotes above, can be easily by sparked or expressed on a screen!

Consistency and Communication is Key

 Talking with parents and reading through the research, I’ve let this all sink in to my own head and heart, as a parent and as a professional counselor. I find myself back at a familiar place of consistency, communication and collaboration. 

It’s incredibly important to be consistently monitoring the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen. If you need guidance, the American Association of Pediatrics is clear with their recommendations.

Depending on the age of your child, set an appropriate time limit and content limit on the material your child is viewing. It is equally important that, as a parent, you ensure the material your child is viewing is age appropriate and offers educational or social value. 

Communication is essential in establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with your child around any topic, including technology. Make every effort to understand what your child is watching, why they like it and what they’re getting out of it.

Some practical implications come into play here including having a family computer in a central location and time limits of screen time. Strong communication skills can help to de-escalate a discussion and work at developing a more trusting and collaborative relationship. 

The inclusion of technology in almost every realm of our current lifestyle is a marked difference between parents and children today. We must learn how to collaborate with our children with this relatively new wealth of knowledge.

Learn Together With Your Child

I encourage you to join forces with your child and learn together - what apps and games are best and what should be left unknown?

This will not only increase your knowledge base but also employ your children with the necessary tools to evaluate healthy technology tools. For information about which apps are safe for your kids to use, access our App Advisor

I continue to believe that there is very little in this world that is all bad or all good, so this is a worthy discussion, and one that deserves more attention and more research as the technology world evolves. In some cases, time will prove the good vs the evil, as it often does.

It is our job, as parents, to guide our children on this journey. How will they protect themselves from the evil and steer themselves to the good? With calm consistency, communication and collaboration, we all have a bright future! 

 

About Annemarie Lange

Annemarie Lange is a licensed professional counselor in the Philadelphia area that utilizes mindfulness and meditation to help her clients deal with a variety of challenges.

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