Monitor the Quality of Screen Time
Let’s face it, for those of us living on the grid, managing screen time is an unassailable part of modern parenting. Limiting screen time is a challenge but in addition to setting caps on how much time your kids are allowed to watch TV, play video games or fall down a YouTube rabbit hole, you can also maximize the quality of time spent on devices. This way kids can satisfy their itch for screen time but doing it in a positive, educational way and you can feel better about how their time is being spent. Improving the quality of screen time also ideal for when traveling, an event when a lot of children expect an increase in screen time.
Board Games without a Board
JackBox TV, best known for the game You Don’t Know Jack, has re-imagined the board game experience, and has a suite of word, drawing and problem solving games that are played through smartphones, tablets and computers, using a TV as the main screen. Groups of up to eight can play so it’s perfect for families and children who can read and write, helping to further develop language, creative and critical thinking skills. Our favorite game from the suite of offerings is Quiplash, a quick game that challenges players to write jokes and then vote for the answers they think are the best. Competition is not the main pursuit so typically the experience is very social and collegial; rounds of the game are all about being clever, making the other players laugh and sparking fun conversations.
Of course, there are also mainstays that can now be played either by passing one phone back and forth or head to head on multiple devices. Stratego, Battleship, chess and Reversi are just a few classic games that are well suited to digitization. Great for travel or waiting and convenient in the sense that it doesn’t require any time to set up or put dozens of pieces away.
It might not be too much of a stretch to write that it is possible to learn nearly anything via the internet. Okay, okay, not everything but for curious kids who are interested in acquiring or furthering particular skills and want to practice and learn on their own, there are an abundance of tutorials and other instructional sites that stretch across a wide breadth of topics. For those young programmers who want to learn coding, they can build up their skills starting at a very basic level at scratch.mit.edu. Lego Boost is also a fantastic bridge between online and traditional play. With Boost, children can build a robot, cat or guitar and then program it the creation to do various things via an app on a tablet. For those who want to learn how to play an instrument, YouTube has a host of music teachers who offer step-by-step instruction. For would-be filmmakers and photographers, there are host of apps to make and edit videos and pictures. Cinekids is a terrific festival that comes to Amsterdam in October of each year where children can learn all about film, technology and experiment with things like virtual reality. From crafts to science experiments to recipes, kids can watch, learn and do, and make the most of their screen time.
And for those active children who need to burn off energy, Just Dance can now be played through the phone and television, resulting in a fun workout that does not involve vegging out in front of a screen.
For anyone who loves to read, Kindle and other eBook readers are excellent for accessing and reading books. They are especially handy for multi-lingual children, as you can find books in your native or second language. For those books that can be shared, it is handy to create small groups of book lovers. This typically involves purchasing an agreed upon list of different books and then giving access to the titles to other members of the group (can share a book up to five times). With a eBooks, children are also empowered to browse through and select titles they find of interest.
By shifting your thinking to how long your child is spending on whatever device to looking at the quality of their interaction, screen time doesn’t have to be junk food for the mind but rather positive brain food.