Why parents shouldn’t feel guilty about their kids screen time during lockdown
During lockdown, you might have found that your usual screen time rules have gone out the window. And quite rightly so. Screen time now includes video calls with loved ones, virtual classes and early morning PE sessions, not just hours spent watching YouTube videos or TikTok demos.
The media would have us all believe that ANY screen time is innately bad, to be feared by parents trying to raise happy, healthy and well-rounded children.
The great news? A study by UNICEF* has actually shown quite the opposite to be true – not only can screen time be positive, it’s a critical tool that teaches your child a valuable and transferrable life-skill: communication. The study even goes as far as to say that no access to digital technology can actually have a negative impact on your child’s development.
Right now, screen time isn’t just inevitable, it’s crucial. We need to fall back on the familiarity and convenience of digital tech because, quite frankly, without it we wouldn’t get anything done. So, if you’re feeling those pangs of parental guilt because your little one’s screen time has increased in recent weeks, then keep on reading. Take comfort in the knowledge that the tool you’re turning to out of necessity - and sometimes in desperation - can have a proven positive effect on your child, long after lockdown is over.
Screen time teaches communication skills
It’s clear that digital technology is our go-to tool for keeping in touch with loved ones. Nowadays, most toddlers could dial their grandparents into a video call without any parental guidance! But this ability to virtually connect with the wider world is one of the biggest positives of screen time for kids. It’s their window to their own world and a crucial lifeline for maintaining a sense of normality during this unquestionably stressful time.
But there really is so much more to it than that. Studies show that online social interaction has a positive impact on a child’s ability to communicate - especially those with less self-confidence who sometimes struggle to make friends. Screen time teaches children how to communicate, even when they’re not necessarily using it for that reason. Time spent navigating technology, both online and offline, develops a child’s ability to problem solve and think logically, encouraging them to speak concisely and reach resolutions.
Screen time gives kids confidence
Being proficient with technology teaches kids to have confidence in their own abilities. Generation’s Z and Alpha are way more confident with tech than we ever were as kids because it’s so commonplace in their world. Essentially, they could soon have the ability to teach us, their parents, how to navigate technology. They’re digitally savvy, with a real understanding of how they can utilise technology to make life easier. This skill is something that is bound to benefit them later in life, as their abilities – and therefore confidence – grows.
Screen time makes kids happy
Think of how your child will happily ask Alexa or Siri to play their favourite song, or the joy they get out of their 9am exercise session with a much-loved influencer. In their minds, this happiness is no different to the excitement of having pizza for dinner or playing in the garden with their siblings. To a child, activities are simply categorised as good or bad. During this uncertain time, we all find comfort in the things that make us happy. By allowing your child a healthy amount of screen time, you’re not giving in – you’re simply making their day a little brighter.
Screen time teaches kids life skills and creativity
Utilising digital tools for a practical purpose, like learning to code or build games online, is a great way to inspire your child’s creativity. Free software, like Scratch, gives kids the opportunity to create interactive stories, games and animations, using their imagination.
And here’s where those all-important life skills come in again; once your child has created their own game, you can bet they’re going to want to share it with friends and family! To do that, they’ll need to use their communication and logic skills to demonstrate their understanding of what they have built in order to teach others how to play it.
Although these programmes and curriculums are admittedly preferably taught in person, many brands – ours included – are offering online or virtual opportunities for kids to work through at home during the lockdown. This enables creative thinking in a more independent environment, which is still just as beneficial as teaching your child how to work well with others.
Screen time encourages independent thinking
One of the main concerns that parents have when it comes to screen time is the isolation they worry it encourages. Actually, I don’t see this as a problem, as long as it’s balanced with the kind of supervised screen time we offer at Code Ninjas. Although I’m not suggesting letting your kid spend 12+ hours alone on their smartphone or tablet, there is a great deal of merit in encouraging your child to practise navigating their tech time independently. The key is to define what tasks they can do on their own online. Utilise online safety tools that limit what your child has access to before letting them have free reign in setting their own schedule. This allows that guilt-free time for you to get on with your own work-from-home schedule, or at least an opportunity to catch up on chores!
In today’s digital world, you can’t escape screen time and now, more than ever, it’s becoming a real lifeline for busy families. What we can do, as parents, is take a more realistic approach and instead of feeling guilty for relying on screen time, we can leverage it for future benefit. Whilst our kids are learning, staying connected and having fun!
David Graham is the co-founder and CEO of Code Ninjas, the world’s largest coding franchise. For more information about Code Ninjas, to find out when a programme might be launching near you – or if you’re interested in starting one of your own – visit www.codeninjas.co.uk.