Brno Family: What Does ‘Screen Time’ Mean for Coronavirus Kids?
The “Pinkcredible Story Maker” app on pbskids.org is a great way to let your kids use screen time in a positive and creative way. Photo Credit: Pinkalicious.
Not long ago, there were people who believed that excessive “screen time” was as bad for the brain as smoking was for the lungs.
Now, by dint of being forced inside as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic, our lives have become reliant upon the internet in ways that will probably never be reversed. Just look at a quick sampling of newspaper headlines since the start of the quarantine period:
• ‘Screen time’ has gone from sin to survival tool, Washington Post (April 9, 2020)
• Don’t Freak Out About Quarantine Screen Time, New York Times (April 6, 2020)
• Our screen-time rules don’t work in this new world. And maybe that’s okay., Washington Post (March 25, 2020)
And, if you want context, here is an article that was published before the world was upended: How to manage your family’s screen time, The Guardian (March 1, 2020)
Basically, screen time was a much-debated topic that has, quickly, become quaint.
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Many parents have struggled with balancing screen time for their kids. Clearly, the more traditional types of play (e.g., building Lego houses, dressing dolls, kicking a ball) seem more natural and beneficial, while the technology-driven forms (e.g., watching YouTube videos, making finger movements to maneuver through an educational app) can look unnecessarily adult, especially with the kid’s little head bent forward and their focus so intently on a screen.
Yet, necessity is the mother of invention — or, at least, having a kids bouncing off the walls is what prompts the father into the laziness of just giving them his mobile phone. Being locked inside has relaxed many well-meaning standards.
At least there are a lot of safe and educational videos and apps from which children can benefit. Here are some — all of which are free — that I have found to be useful:
• Little Baby Bum. In many ways, training our kids to use the toilet was based upon the reward of watching “Little Baby Bum” on YouTube.com. The clips have friendly animated creatures who sing songs and act out nursery rhymes. There are many clips focused on learning numbers, shapes and colors. (However, be careful: “Little Baby Bum” may prove so popular that it may lead to prolonged periods of a kid sitting on the baby potty in the middle of the kitchen supposedly trying to squeeze one out but really just watching the videos.)
• GoNoodle. If you need your kids to move around in order to use up some energy, try this website: https://family.gonoodle.com/ As soon as I turned on these videos, my kids started dancing and jumping and trying to follow along with the on-screen performers. There is also a game-oriented page that make exercise more fun.
• Sesame Street, Peppa Pig, Masha and the Bear. YouTube is chock full of animated videos that are just a search word away. They are a perfect quick fix for when you get a surprise conference call. Just make sure to keep an eye on the queue, lest the subsequent videos turn strange: there is a lot of spiderman-themed weirdness out there and the algorithm always seems to lead to Russian-language videos.
Websites and Apps
• Khan Kids. I am huge proponent of Khan Academy. I think it is the model for the future of education — i.e., online lectures at home and personal support at school — and I have personally spent many hours watching its videos to refresh my math knowledge and reinforce my biology background. The kids application is great. There are many simple-to-use games that add tools that will help them in the future.
• British Council — Learning Time with Timmy. We are currently starting to teach my daughter to read. We point out words and slowly add new ones. On her own, she has started to copy the words from a book into her notebook. Having another outlet, like “Timmy’s First Words in English”, helps to provide another perspective.
• Pbskids.org. A lot of great games are available from the Public Broadcasting System of the United States. The “Pinkcredible Story Maker” has been a recent favorite. The user creates a three-panel story. Each scene requires a setting, characters and props. My daughter designs the set and then uses it to tell us the story. Click here to see it. (Note: This is also great for anyone with writers block as they create their entry for the fourth annual Brno Short Story Writers Contest!)
• PBS Kids Play & Learn Science. One of my favorite places in Brno is the Open Gardens at 33 Údolní Street because it has a large installation for learning about water. Kids pump the water at the top of the hill, adjust obstacles along the way and watch the flow. This same thing exists on the PBS Kids Play & Learn Science app (and the kid doesn’t get wet). Plus, the app’s temperature game is great: the animated scene changes according to the temperature you choose.
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There are definitely many more child-friendly apps that I have not yet tried. What are your favorite apps for kids? Do you worry about too much screen time? What are your strategies for limiting your kids’ exposure to screens? Do you believe that excessive screen time is as bad for your brain as smoking is for your lungs? Please share.