What Is Good Screen Time?
Most people think that screen time is bad for children. While there are valid arguments to support this, it is not necessarily true. Technology is created to enhance all of our lives, including kids. Technology presents us with the opportunity to interact with our kids and educate them. The key is to be using technology properly and taking advantage of said opportunities instead of leaving children alone with technology, reducing the chances of them using technology as an educational tool.
First, it’s important to differentiate between good and bad examples of screen time. Good screen time is anything that is beneficial to brain development. This can be educational television programs and online games that require critical thinking. Then, there are bad uses of screen time. These are anything that has no value other than entertainment. Obviously, the best use of screen time is to completely, or at least mostly, use screens for good purposes over bad. When you’re letting your kids use technology alone, you want to encourage and/or only allow them to watch educational programs, play games that challenge them mentally, and do anything else that is going to benefit their growth and brain development.
There are times that this isn’t always going to work. Maybe she was recommended a show that she just HAS to watch because ALL of her friends watch it and it would be sOoOoO disastrous if she didn’t know what was going on, or something like that. It happens. This problem can be remedied by sitting with your child and interacting with her while you both watch the show together. Talking before, during, and after the program improves your relationship, promotes socialization, a concern many who are against screens for children often bring up, and encourages higher levels of thinking throughout the program, even though there is little to no educational value.
This can also be used as a learning experience in it of itself. For example, say your child wants to watch a trashy reality TV show. Watch it with them, and use their actions to teach lessons. “Catfish” can be used to teach the dangers of the Internet and why it’s important to not trust people until you meet in person and establish an offline relationship. “Pretty Little Liars” can show open the conversation the spiral of lies that sparks from result from one lie and and the importance of being honest. The importance here is that you are opening up conversation and encouraging not only the learning of life lessons but a constant use of their mind and thought processes. Getting your children in the habit of always thinking and challenging themselves will prove to be a beneficial quality in their schoolwork and future overall.
Technology can be used to expand horizons as well. If your teenager watches entertaining political shows, such as “The Daily Report” and “The Colbert Report” for example, why don’t you watch another more serious political show with them, or follow the Presidential election with them? The young mind is so easy to mold, so use that as a way to promote your child to see all sides of each issue and form their own opinions. We live in a world that likes to blame one another for our problems instead of taking it upon ourselves to make the change. If we let our kids stare blankly at a screen and repeat whatever they hear on the television or read online without full understanding of what exactly they are talking about, how are we bettering our world? In this case, we are not promoting change but rather conformity. We are telling them to not think for themselves and instead, just memorize what you hear and repeat it to others. There is no creativity, no original thought, no personal development. How can we expect a bright future with innovation and technical growth if we aren’t encouraging a curious and thought-provoking lifestyle? The truth is, we can’t.
We’ve talked a lot about screen time for kids and the importance of maintaining the use of screens for good. This mindset can be applied to adults, as well, and even yourself. Take a look at your DVR or your recently watched shows on Netflix. Do these shows promote cognitive thinking? How are you benefitting from watching these shows or films besides the entertainment value? What accounts do you follow on Twitter? What webpages do you visit in your free time? Set the good screen time standard for yourself, and hold yourself accountable, even for just a week. Track your progress. See how you feel at the end of the week. Have your conversations with friends shifted? What kind of value are you now adding to conversations?
When I began taking over the social media accounts for Heart, my online habits shifted. Now, I was following outlets reporting on technology and local news so that I could share this information with our followers and show that Heart is a company that stays up to date on the latest technologies and cares about our community. I began listening to podcasts about technology and how it shapes our daily lives instead of listening to the same old playlist. My Pinterest searches were now less recipes and DIY projects and more data infographics and technology products. Instead of taking a “brain break” on BuzzFeed quizzes, I was going to Mashable for articles on company culture and looking forward to Fast Company’s News Quiz every Friday. I found my whole media intake shifted, and because of this, I had more interesting things to say in conversations. My interactions with others are more intellectual and in my opinion, more meaningful. Gone were the talks of irrelevant nonsense. Now, we’re talking about current events and the world around us. By making a few little shifts, there have been shifts in my life and in the lives of my friends and those that I spend time with.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you. Screens can be used mindlessly, or screens can be used for positivity and growth. Despite what some may say, technology can do so much to benefit you and/or your family. Take the challenge, and see all that technology can do for you.