During lockdown, your usual screen time rules may have gone out the window. And quite rightly so. Screen time now includes video calls with loved ones, virtual classes and early morning PE sessions – all vital to wellbeing.
Some areas of the media would have us believe that any screen time is innately bad, to be feared by parents trying to raise happy, healthy and well-rounded children.
But a study by UNICEF* shows quite the opposite to be true – not only can screen time be positive: it’s a critical tool that teaches your child the inestimable life-skill of communication. The study goes as far as to suggest that no access to digital technology can have a negative impact on your child’s development.
Right now, screen time isn’t just inevitable, it’s crucial. We need to fall back on the familiarity and convenience of digital tech because, quite frankly, without it we wouldn’t get anything done. So, if you’re feeling those pangs of parental guilt because your little one’s screen time has increased in recent weeks, keep on reading. Take comfort in the knowledge that the tool you’re turning to out of necessity – and sometimes in desperation – could have proven positive effects on your child, long after lockdown is over.
Studies show that online social interaction has a positive impact on a child’s ability to communicate – especially those with less self-confidence who sometimes struggle to make friends.
Screen time teaches communication skills
It’s clear that digital technology is our go-to tool for keeping in touch with loved ones. Nowadays, most toddlers could dial their grandparents into a video call without any parental guidance! This ability to virtually connect with the wider world is one of the biggest positives of screen time for kids. It’s their window to their own world and a crucial lifeline for maintaining a sense of normality during stressful times.
Studies show that online social interaction has a positive impact on a child’s ability to communicate – especially those with less self-confidence who sometimes struggle to make friends. Screen time teaches children how to communicate, even when they’re not necessarily using it for that reason. Time spent navigating technology, both online and offline, develops a child’s ability to problem-solve and think logically, encouraging kids to speak concisely and reach resolutions.
Screen time gives kids confidence
Being proficient with technology teaches children to have confidence in their own abilities. Generation’s Z and Alpha are way more confident with tech than their parents were as kids because it’s commonplace in their world. They could soon have the ability to teach us, their parents, how to navigate technology. They’re digitally savvy, with a real understanding of how they can utilise technology to make life easier. This skill is something that is sure to benefit them later in life, as their ability – and confidence – grows.
Screen time makes kids happy
Think of how children will happily ask Alexa or Siri to play their favourite song, or the joy they get out of their 9am exercise session with a much-loved presenter. In their minds, this happiness is no different to the excitement of having pizza for dinner or playing in the garden with their siblings. To a child, activities are simply categorised as good or bad. During this uncertain time, we all find comfort in the things that make us happy. By allowing children a sensible amount of screen time, you’re making their day a little brighter.
Utilising digital tools for a practical purpose, like learning to code or build games online, is a great way to inspire your child’s creativity.
Screen time teaches kids life skills and creativity
Utilising digital tools for a practical purpose, like learning to code or build games online, is a great way to inspire your child’s creativity. Free software, like Scratch, gives kids the opportunity to create interactive stories, games and animations, using their imagination.
And here’s where those all-important life skills come in again: once children have created their own game, you can bet they’re going to want to share it with friends and family. To do that, they’ll need to use their communication and logic skills to demonstrate their understanding of what they have built in order to teach others how to play it.
Although these programmes and curricula are preferably taught in person, many brands are offering online or virtual opportunities for kids to work through at home during the lockdown. This enables creative thinking in a more independent environment.
Screen time encourages independent thinking
One of the main concerns that parents have when it comes to screen time is the isolation they worry it encourages. This is where supervised screen time comes in. No-one would advise allowing children to spend many hours alone on their smartphone or tablet, but there is merit in encouraging your child to practise navigating tech time independently. The key is to define what online tasks they can do on their own. Utilise online safety tools that limit what children have access to, before letting them have free reign in setting their own schedule. This allows that guilt-free time for you to get on with your own work-from-home schedule, or at least an opportunity to catch up on chores!
In today’s digital world, you can’t escape screen time and now, more than ever, it’s becoming a real lifeline for busy families. What we can do, as parents, is take a more realistic approach and instead of feeling guilty for relying on screen time, we can leverage it for future benefit. And use it as a tool to help children learn, stay connected and have fun!