If they had their way, some children would glue themselves to tablets, smartphones or computers, and happily binge on viral videos and games. That’s where parents have to step in. Not all screen time is created equal, and while technology can be a powerful educational and entertainment tool, it needs to be used smartly.
Whether it’s helping kids learn social skills or to write their first strings of code, here are 5 ways that screen time can be used to benefit kids’ development.
1. To enhance critical thinking skills
Choosing apps with the right mix of entertainment and educational value can put a parent at ease. “A lot of these games won’t even feel like learning,” says Caroline Knorr, senior parenting editor at Common Sense Media. “But parents know time playing is time well spent with puzzles and games that challenge kids to experiment and find creative ways to solve problems.” Knorr is particularly fond of BrainPOP, CargoBot and Space Physics.
2. To improve real-life skills
Believe it or not, screen time can actually help improve skills off the screen. “Apps like DIY, Minecraft and Book Creator encourage kids to use their creativity and imagination to build projects,” Knorr says. And apps like Get the Math will encourage kids to work with numbers via real-world problem-solving scenarios. A tablet can also sometimes double as a textbook. “DuoLingo is a fun way to learn new languages, and iCivics teaches kids about government and civics in a fun, engaging way,” Knorr says.
3. To improve time management
Setting limits around screen time is an excellent way to teach children about time management. Parents can also reward kids with time for other activities if they use pre-screened educational apps well. Apps like Choiceworks Calendar, 30/30, Moment and Habitica help kids stay focused, organize their time, track their screen time and make sure they’ve finished their required tasks and chores.
4. To hone their social skills
People joke that there’s an app for everything, but even this one might surprise some parents. Apps like The Social Express II, Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are and Sit With Us are specifically designed, Knorr says, to “help kids learn important social skills like empathy, confidence, and kindness.”
5. To write code
If they’re tooling around on a tablet, why not help them learn a real-world skill — like coding? There are a slew of apps that will teach your child, whether they’re 8 or 14, how to write computer code, while ensuring they have fun. “There are tons of apps and games online that will totally captivate kids, but will actually teach them coding and programming skills at the same time,” Knorr says. She’s particularly fond of Cato’s Hike, Scratch, Hopscotch and Codeacademy.
Be sure to check out a complete parents' guide to kids and tech on Verizon's Family Tech page today.