Balancing Screen Time

There are two types of screen time: passive screen time and active screen time. Both can have either positive or negative effects on children, depending on the content itself, who they share the screen time with, and the purpose of the screen time.
A girl on her room playing with a computer, enjoying high quality screen time.
Written by
Mikko Perälä

Balancing Screen Time

Parents are concerned about their children's screen time. How much screen time is it good to allow your own child to have with a tablet or phone or to let them play on a computer or console?

It's difficult to give a precise answer to this question because ultimately, it's highly individual. Not all screen time is negative, and not all screen time is equal in value. So, let's delve into this a bit further. Dear gamer parents, please take out your notepads and get ready.

Active screen time and passive screen time

There are two types of screen time: passive screen time and active screen time. Both can have either positive or negative effects on children, depending on the content itself, who they share the screen time with, and the purpose of the screen time.

Passive screen time refers to consuming various digital and audiovisual content without interaction. A good example might be watching Netflix or YouTube. 

Active screen time, on the other hand, involves activities such as creating digital content or playing online games where the person actively participates in some way.

Not all active screen time is positive, and passive screen time is not necessarily negative

Negative Passive Screen Time

If your child is watching YouTube, TikTok, or similar social media alone, without you knowing the content they are consuming or discussing what they see, this can be considered negative passive screen time. It's advisable to set strict time limits for such consumption and ensure that you are aware of the content algorithms are pushing to your child's device.

Positive Passive Screen Time

On the other hand, if you collectively choose a movie from a streaming service to watch as a family, it falls under passive but, in my opinion, positive screen time. If the movie contains scary or thought-provoking scenes, you, as a parent, can address them and explain them to your child in that moment. These moments can strengthen family bonds. Also, platforms like YouTube and other social media services offer plenty of useful content that can help acquire new skills. So, the categorization of screen time largely depends on the quality of the content.

Negative Active Screen Time

Your child spends time playing an online game with unknown or older players. You don't know your child's online acquaintances, with whom they spend a lot of time playing. There is a significant risk here that they might be influenced by behaviors and attitudes of people whom you wouldn't want your child to associate with offline. They could also become targets of bullying or harassment due to their age or get frustrated from being less skilled than others, leading to feelings of inadequacy. This can result in a torrent of negative emotions that may also manifest at home. This is a typical example of negative active screen time and should be taken seriously. The content of the game itself is not as important as the people your child is playing it with.

Positive Active Screen Time

A supervised online gaming community where the identities of all participants are known, gaming sessions are led by adults, predetermined activities challenge young minds to solve problems, participants collaborate and communicate with like-minded peers of the same age constitute a positive active screen time. This type of activity embodies the qualities of a fulfilling hobby. School of Gaming's lessons, guided by trained game educators, serve as a prime example of positive active screen time.

Balancing Screen Time

In a popular children’s book in the Nordics, “Pelle No-Tail”, they say you keep your balance using your tail, but Pelle didn't have one. It was bitten off by a rat when he was just a kitten. And neither do we anymore. That's why we must ensure by other means that screen time for children (and for ourselves) is in balance.

In the beginning, when children are still small and taking their first steps into the world of digital devices and content, the responsibility for balancing negative and positive screen time naturally lies with the parents.

However, no one can watch over their children and their actions 24/7/365/forever. Therefore, it's important that when children start to have their own friends and activities, they know what constitutes positive and negative screen time and understand the importance of finding balance between the two in life.

This way, you can avoid excessive restrictions, limitations, or constant monitoring and raise smart and conscious children in this matter.

And these same pieces of advice are not wasted on us parents either.

Practical Tips for Achieving Screen Time Balance

Here are some practical tips to help you manage screen time at home:

  • Bring computers, consoles, and other devices to common areas, like the living room. This is an excellent way not only to monitor the content being consumed and who your child is interacting with online but also to get more involved in the things that interest your child. Devices don't belong in kids' bedrooms.
  • If your child plays online, try to arrange it so they play with a classmate, a close friend, or a relative. Shared hobbies strengthen friendships and are safer when your child is not alone with strangers online.
  • Create a family "screen time" plan that specifies when and where devices can be used. Involve your child in the planning process and commit to the plan together.
  • Set a good example yourself. If your own phone beeps and buzzes every few minutes, if you scroll through news on your phone at the dinner table, or if you're checking your phone in bed before sleep, what kind of message are you sending to your children?

You can start implementing these tips today! In future blogs, we will delve deeper into these practices and share many more useful tips on how to turn screen time into a positive force in your child's development.

School of Gaming is the safest place for children to play online games. Our safe and secure service gives parents peace of mind and offers children super fun weekly lessons in a gaming environment they love. These lessons include opportunities to make new like-minded friends and are supervised by adult game-based learning professionals. Try out our lessons now:

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