Commentary: Three smarter ways to use screen time while kids are at home


There are ways to use tech to help kids learn, explore their interests and get creative, says an observer.

A child using an app to learn.

Rebecca Dore

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COLUMBUS, Ohio: As families everywhere adjust to social distancing measures like closed schools and child care centers, workplaces and more, parents are grappling with questions regarding their kids use of technology.

Even then, there are tips you should bear in mind to make the most of screen time for kids who are cooped up at home.




Rather than handing over the remote or the iPad, parents can help young children by choosing media thats worthwhile.

By the time children are about age 3, high-quality media like Sesame Street can help them learn about words, numbers and even important facts about how to stay safe, research has shown.

Kids can also learn from apps, such as Bedtime Math (which has been shown to have long-term effects on childrens math skills), Measure That Animal (a Sesame Street game focused on improving childrens measuring skills) and Unicorn Adventure (which uses a fantasy game to teach about healthy foods).



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This all means that screen time doesnt just have to be a way to keep your child occupied while you send some emails or tend to household chores. But where can you find high-quality educational media?

Resources like Common Sense Media provide research-based information and ratings about all types of media for kids of all ages. They even have a special page to help families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shows and apps from PBS KIDS are all based on child development research and a search tool on their website lets you choose your childs age and a topic area to search for appropriate media. It also provides related activities that can be done both online and without a device.

File photo of a child using a tablet computer. (Photo: AFP/Frederick Florin)

Another way to tie learning and screen time is to follow your childs interests and find educational media to match whatever they are obsessing over.

If 6-year-old Robby is begging to make pancakes for breakfast now that hes not rushing off to school, find a video that shows the science behind how baking soda makes those pancakes extra fluffy.


Although adults often use media as a babysitter, young children get more out of it when they use it with an adult. Grown-ups, after all, can help them understand whats going on and make connections to the real world.

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One study found that when 3-year-olds watched a Dora the Explorer episode, three in four thought the Spanish words in the show werent real or said they werent sure if they were real.

Not surprisingly, those children were less likely to learn from the show.

Parents can help by watching with children, talking to them about what they are seeing and linking it to their everyday lives. For example, a mom or dad can observe that: “Dora speaks Spanish, like your friend Mateo from school.”

Making the time and effort to do this is always easier said than done – especially when kids are home from school and need to be entertained around the clock while their parents are nearby teleworking.

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