In addition to ensuring the safe use of technology, it is additionally important to develop and strengthen healthy habits from a young age. While some sources of media can improve crucial skills, the majority of sources are shown to hinder developmental processes. The frequent use of technology makes building healthy habits at a young age more important than ever before.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends every 30 minutes of screen time (e.g., phone, computer, video games) be matched with 30 minutes of active, unstructured play. Use of media is not recommended for children younger than 18 months old. Further, a limit of one hour per day is recommended for children between the ages of 18 months and five years old. These guidelines were generated based on developmental stages and milestones. For example, children younger than 2 are developing cognitive, language, motor and social-emotional skills. Frequent nonmedia interaction is needed to develop and strengthen these skills. While media use, including video chatting, can provide some social interaction, the AAP highly recommends parents watch and review the information with their children. Additionally, media use cannot be the primary source of social interaction for children of any age if they are to develop healthy and effective social habits.
When choosing media for children and teens, aim to pick games and programs that further develop necessary skills. Games that promote focus, self-control, and build critical thinking skills are recommended. For example, choose games that allow children to control the speed/movement of a character, learn to count and sort amidst distractions, and anticipate and plan for what is coming next. If games or programs include violence, it is strongly recommended parents process with children afterward from both the victim and perpetrator perspectives. Processing from the perpetrator perspective allows children to build cause and effect connections, as well as separate fantasy from reality. Processing from the victim’s perspective allows children to develop empathy and remorse. If they are playing a video game, it is important to change the viewing screen from first-person to third-person perspective to decrease the intensity. Following these guidelines with aggressive media will lesson any negative impact of exposure.
If using media with children, be intentional in selecting games and programs that teach and reflect the values you want to teach children. Review any media thoroughly before children watch to ensure it will improve impulse control, emotional regulation, creativity or flexible thinking skills. Sesame Workshop and PBS strive to provide content based on extensive developmental research. Remember that even if games or programs claim to be educational in nature, this is not an indication they were created based on clinical evidence. Finally, remember that crucial lifelong skills are best learned through social and unstructured play.
Source: Allison Kranich, MS, LCPC, CAADC