Thursday, 15 November 2018

Creative Screen Time and How to Get It Right

All too often we hear parents say their kids become zombies when using devices. It’s partly down to the type of child, the length of time on a device and what they are doing on their devices that make parents feel this way. Here at Tech Age Kids, we believe there is a big difference between passive and creative screen time.

Passive screen time is easy for parents. Just give them a mobile phone to keep them quiet. Use the tablet as a second/third parent to entertain the kids whilst you need to get some jobs done. Let them play ‘mindless’ games for hours on end.

All in good measure, none of the above things are necessarily bad, but if that is ALL your kids do with technology, they are missing out on a world of exciting creative uses of tech and devices.

Creative screen time, on the other hand, may require a little more effort on a parent’s part. You may have to step out of your own comfort zone and learn a new skill yourself. You may have to spend time with your child to help them figure things out. (Or for them to teach you!)

Make It an Activity

There is nothing wrong with kids engaging in both passive and creative screen time, but make it an activity. This means, when they’re playing that game that all they seem to do is click the screen repeatedly, their activity is limited to an agreed time.

If it doesn’t come naturally for you, focus to build into the activities you do with your kids, some element of creative screen time. (See Passive vs Creative Screentime)

So instead of doing colouring one afternoon, encourage them to do some digital art on Scratch. Or instead of playing Fortnite again, get them to make a game controller using a Makey Makey and then play Fortnite. Or instead of writing a story by hand, ask them to type it!

There are lots of different ways you can engage in creative and useful screen time activities. Below is a list of a few ideas you could try. All these activities can be done at various ages and stages of your child's development.

Types of Creative Tech Activities

Tips for Parents/Grandparents

If you’re like me, you may need some help to get ideas on how to engage in creative digital activities:

  1. Get Inspired

    Search around the web, for activities, creative tech products or ideas. Tech Age Kids is a good place to start too - we have lots of product reviews, project ideas and lists on creative tech ideas. There are lots of other inspirational places to look online too! (A recommended list of websites COMING SOON.)
  2. Do Your Homework

    It's most frustrating if you want to do something and the tech doesn’t work. Children are not very patient and will soon lose interest. Do as much research ahead of time, not necessarily to know all the answers but to know where to look for help when you get stuck. Is there a support forum? Do you need an online account? Is there too much reading required to get started?
  3. Be Prepared

    Tech can be frustrating and it doesn’t always work, so be prepared (see the check list below). Kids quickly lose interest if you spend all their ‘screentime’ trying to fix problems.
  4. Make it Fun

    Creative screen time doesn’t have to be ‘educational’. Don’t make kids feel like creative screen time is like homework. Allow for creativity, curiosity, and exploration. Let them pick the theme.
  5. Give control to the kids

    Let them pick the type of activity, the tech or the theme. Give them a reason to choose creative screentime. Go with their interests and start where they are at. Be prepared to learn with them.

Be Prepared Check List

  • Have you checked the batteries/power needed?
  • Is your computer updated and/or compatible?
  • Do you have the software or apps downloaded?
  • Does the robot, microcontroller, or external device need charging?
  • Do you need other materials?
  • Do you need an online account?
  • Do you need to pay for anything? How much?

Change Habits

It’s never too late to change habits. As first generation digital parents, we are really making this up as we go. Although we know for a fact that tech is here to stay and our children will need digital skills to work in the future.

My children will often say to me, can I play on the computer? Yes, but you can only play the repetitive game for 30min and then you need to do something useful.

I’m not limiting their screen time, just limiting what they do on it! I've also learned not to be afraid to say 'no' because of they may react!

Tracy instilled a good habit in her home. After 7.30pm her kids are not allowed to play games on computers/consoles. They’ve done this from a young age, so now they are tweens, they just know, if they want to use tech after 7.30pm it has to be creative screen time!

Creative Screen Time is Good for the Future

A child that is brilliant at navigating an iPad at age 3 doesn’t mean they have great digital skills. It shows that some clever people at Apple have developed a piece of tech that works so intuitively that a 3-year-old can operate it. Our children need to physical skills and thinking abilities to understand technology. How does this actually work? Can they identify problems in their world and solve them using technology?

Your child (like mine) may say, they game (play computer games) so much because they want to become a professional gamer. It is a fair point, but not every child that plays football is going to become a professional football player. We need balance and we need to make sure our children get a broader understanding of our digital world and how it works.

Using creative screen time can get us a step closer to that future!

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