When many of us who are parents now were growing up there was no internet and no mobile phones. The horror! When it comes to our children the world is a different place, particularly in terms of availability and access. We explore the pros and cons of digital time for your children.
Our children use the internet at home as well as a number of offline applications for classwork and more. Indeed, most classrooms no longer have a blackboard, they have an interactive whiteboard instead. There are consoles (Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Wii), there are handhelds such as Nintendo DS and tablets and of course their mobile phones. It’s safe to say that our children have a wonderful array of different ways to enjoy digital time.
Digital Time for Children is a Good Thing
Believe it or not, there are huge advantages to having digital access in the way that our children do. For example, a great number of games and apps focus on learning through play. They help children, even older children to develop skills and increase knowledge without them actually realising that they are doing so.
Have a look at the number of pre-school apps that available on mobile and tablet. These use colourful and often recognisable characters to help children hone their early math, phonics and even reading skills. There are a number of free apps which offer all of this and more as well as the paid for subscription-run services which have a keener focus on education.
Fed up of hearing about Minecraft? Do you dream of Nether Portals and Redstone? Can your child talk endlessly about his favourite mod, her favourite world and texture pack and seems to know an impossible amount about what looks like a block-building game? What they are learning is all about shapes, survival, problem solving, math, design and so much more. Mojang have even released a version of Minecraft, Minecraft for Education, that is being used directly in schools from primary age and up to facilitate learning. How brilliant?
Coding is also a big thing right now and looks set to continue as such. Coding sounds more complicated than it is. Your child will actually start to learn to code in primary school, quite early on, using a drag and drop system of sorts that will later develop into “real” text-based coding. Coding is so important as again it looks at math skills as well as problem-solving. It also has a great number of real-world applications which will serve them well long after they have left full-time education.
From an educational point of view, there are so many benefits to our children having access to regular digital time.
How Much is Too Much?
Computer game and apps are designed to be appealing to children. It’s no wonder that they come home from school and want to jump straight onto a computer. Regular digital time is a good thing though. There are many benefits as we’ve already mentioned. What, as parents, we need to do is look at how much time a child spends online compared to enjoying offline time.
Limiting screen time is not a bad thing in terms of reducing the risk of eye strain. It’s also wise to look at digital time as something that children enjoy alongside their other activities, both indoors and outdoors. How much is too much (or rather how much is the right amount) depends on you, your child, their age and their interests. Set boundaries around the amount of time your child may spend on digital time and ensure that you stick to these if you can. Digital fun as much as anything else (i.e. going out to play, watching TV, playing with favourite toys) is something that is earned or allowed based on your personal/family rules around good behaviour, doing set chores and similar.
It’s All They Talk About Though!
Oh, we get it, we feel your pain! We know that children can go on and on and on about their favourite games, in particular games such as but certainly not limited to Minecraft. The thing is though, try really listening to what they’re talking about. Get them to show you what they mean. It’s really quite fascinating! A lot of these games and apps are designed to boost and encourage creativity and children thrive on this.
Yes, they may go on and on about their favourite game however surely it’s good that they are so enthusiastic about something? Again, making sure that they have boundaries in terms of how much time they have online (etc) and that it is part of their play time makes sense.
Striking the Balance
When we were kids we stayed out until the street lights came on, climbed trees, lit campfires and more often than not we would come home (after a day of adult-free fun) with bumps, bruises and skinned knees. It was great, however, for the most part, this was a different time. There are many more vehicles on the roads now, fields we played in are now housing developments and where our parents or carers knew pretty much everyone in the street/ the area. The same towns have now boomed and nowadays no-one seems to know anyone. While to a certain extent our children may enjoy the freedoms that we did as children, this is another time and digital fun is a part of that. This isn’t a bad thing!
Rather than lament the fact that time hasn’t stood still, we need to embrace the fact that our children have so many more choices and more ways to access education and enjoyment, online and off.
Striking the balance is all about ensuring that our children enjoy a healthy amount of both digital and offline fun. That they still run around the park, have water fights in the garden, go for walks and play out with friends alongside digital fun. It’s all about balance!
Keeping our children safe online is much easier when they are very little and simply colour in well-known characters on your iPad! The dark side as it were of digital time is the fact that there are so many strangers online and so much content, content that you don’t necessarily want your children to see. Again, with younger children, this is much easier to manage. Apps and games that are aimed at certain age ranges have built-in security that prohibits communication with others or free/unhindered browsing. You can also set up the security on your own via you PC and network settings as well as applying filters and more.
We’ll cover all of this is more details, helping you keep your children of all ages safe and secure online in our Online Safety section.
So, Digital Time is OK?
Absolutely. It’s fab! Our children love it, they learn so much and teachers encourage it! Just make sure they aren’t glued to it 24/7 and that they enjoy a good mix of activities to ensure that they enjoy a well-rounded childhood, get time to make friends, enjoy the fresh air and practice their social skills offline too.