The family that plays video games together stays together. When parents become digital mentors, children can learn empathy and resilience and prepare for careers. From NPR's Life Kit, Here are four ways to harness the advantages of screen time.
1. Whenever possible, share screens with your kids.
With the littlest kids, treat screens like a picture book. As they get older, bond over movie nights and video game time, and talk with them about what they're playing and watching solo. Prompt them to reflect on the positive lessons and the negative messages they're getting — a process called "active mediation," which helps you connect with your kids and helps them become more media savvy.
2. Balancing screen use is about much more than time.
Rather than focusing on controlling the amount of time a child is clocking on screens each day, look at the overall balance of the child's day. Is your child getting enough sleep? Are you managing screen-free family meals? Are there any behavior problems? And make sure media time is balanced among consumption, creation and connection — such as video chatting with the grandparents.
3. Be smart about content.
Most popular children's apps are bogged down with ads. Autoplay can lead to some inappropriate content. Be the guardian when they're younger, and keep the conversation going to lay the foundation for kids to make wise media choices as they get older.
4. Look for what's positive about your kids' screen time so you can help those positive things grow.
We don't get far as parents if we always condemn our kids' interests. Help them find safe, positive outlets for their media passions.
Consider that video games might help your child engage with reading or storytelling — and that writing and reading fan fiction about a pop band might be a way to connect with others and be creative.
In this episode, we spoke with Latoya Peterson, who plays video games with her son Gavin and is co-founder and chief experience officer for Glow Up Games, a video game company with a mission to build a community for underrepresented majorities in gaming.
We also spoke with Mimi Ito, director of the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine, and founder of Connected Camps, a nonprofit organization that runs technology-focused after-school programs and summer camps; and Jenny Radesky, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan.