The thorny topic of screen time for kids comes up a lot on this site’s associated Facebook groups. As with a lot of debates, particularly when it comes to parenting, it usually swings from one extreme to another.
The Screen Time Debate
There are those that see it as the great evil, numbing the brains of our offspring, restricting their vocabulary and robbing them of the ability think themselves out of boredom. Others let their kids have free reign to electronically entertain themselves as they see fit.
If you fall into either camp – cool – you can obviously parent how you wish. We’re all adults. For me, although I don’t want my two to stare gormlessly at the telly all day, I’d certainly question the notion on the other side that there are no educational or developmental benefits to screen time.
Positives of Screen Time for Kids
Before you have kids, and therefore before you have actually watched any modern children’s TV (viewing a Bagpuss DVD at 3am after a few ‘menthol’ cigarettes doesn’t count), you could be forgiven for thinking it was garish, screeching junk. But it isn’t. Or at least, not all of it is.
CBeebies, for example, is a masterpiece of programming. It offers an array of shows that teach children about the world, about themselves and about others, all without them realising they are learning.
Go Jetters is on one level a cool show about flying spaceships and overcoming baddies, but it also encourages kids to explore the world and learn about geography, ecology and preservation. Pablo introduces them to autism, something they may encounter in nursery or school. It arms them with empathy. In addition, Topsy and Tim lets them know what it’s like to hear someone talk endlessly about moving house. Every single episode. For ever and ever.
Just because children have use of an iPad doesn’t necessarily mean they have to spend that time watching fighty robots brawling. There are numerous apps available to aid their development. Whether it is shape-sorting, riddles, counting games or whatever, they can learn as they play.
These sorts of games are also great for developing hand-eye coordination, something that is essential if you want them to go on to be a champion golfer and keep you in the life to which you would like to become accustomed.
If your child can work their way around an electronic device, they are set up for life. When they become adults, their working world will revolve around the descendants of our current mobile phones and tablets. Computer skills well in advance of my own will be a huge advantage and my kids will laugh in my old man face when I tell them about my notebook (paper, not laptop) obsession.
Finally, telly is great for providing that little bit of quiet time that all kids need now and again. My daughter began primary school a few weeks ago and she is absolutely shattered when she gets home. The only way to make it through till tea time (Northern for ‘dinner’, which in turn is Northern for ‘lunch’), is to let her decompress on the sofa with the TV on. For us it might require a glass of red wine and a glitchy Radiohead album to relax us after a busy day at work, for her it is a beaker of milk and Gigglebiz.
Screen Time for Kids – Conclusion
Screen time for kids isn’t evil in and of itself. It’s all about how you use it. Obviously, it’s better if you can spend time with your child while they have their screen time, discussing points that come up that could further their learning. However, it doesn’t make you a bad parent if you use Mr Tumble as a free babysitter whilst you go to the toilet, make a cup of tea or cook the tea/lunch/dinner.
Your kids’ grey matter will not turn instantly to mush because they played a Peppa Pig Pick a Pair game online. I’m no brain surgeon, but I think I can be pretty confident about that. In fact, if my daughter watches enough Dr Ranj maybe she could be inspired to become a brain surgeon. They earn enough to support their parents, right?