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Teenager girl and boy interacting with an iPad

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • Three-quarters of parents (76%) believe video games can have a positive effect on children when played in moderation.
  • Parents say the benefits of video games include improved motor skills and hand-eye coordination (94%), problem-solving skills (91%) and creativity (72%).
  • Most parents (80%) say they enjoy playing video games with their children.
Are there any media benefits for children and teenagers? Yes! Television, movies, computer games and the internet can be a positive influence on your child, especially if you get involved when your child is using them and help your child make good choices.

Media benefits and child development

There are many negative messages about media, and how viewing and interacting with it might harm your child.

But children can also benefit from media. The benefits depend on how old your child is, and what kind and quality of media your child is using. 

For children under two years, we don’t know of any benefits from any media.

But for children aged 2-8 years, carefully chosen TV programs, movies, apps and computer games offer many developmental and social benefits. These can have even more value through middle and later childhood. Also, social networking sites can have social benefits for teenagers. 

How media can benefit children

For younger children, the developmental benefits of media include developing:

  • literacy skills – for example, learning letters of the alphabet through programs such as Play School and Sesame Street, or through educational computer games and apps like Teach Your Monster to Read
  • numeracy skills – for example, learning to count or identify shapes through programs including Sesame Street and Play School
  • social skills – for example, learning cooperation by watching TV programs and using computer games and apps like Toca’s Tea Party, and websites such as ABC for Kids, which show cooperative and helping behaviour.

 For older children, there are:

  • intellectual benefits – for example, developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills by playing computer games designed to develop these skills, or developing ethical thinking by comparing family values with values in fiction or documentaries
  • educational benefits – for example, encouraging reading, particularly after watching a program or movie based on a book
  • social benefits – for example, joining online clubs such as Club Penguin, which teach children strategies for effectively and safely using social networking sites, or playing computer games with friends and family
  • creative benefits – for example, developing skills in imagination, art and modelling, music and media, through using software and apps like My Story or Bubl Draw, or being inspired to make something by a TV show.

 Teenagers can develop their:

  • reading, writing and critical thinking skills through using blogs and chat rooms 
  • social skills through connecting with others on social networking sites
  • political and social awareness by watching news, current affairs and documentaries, or reading about issues online
  • values through observing good role models in the media.
Children can be media creators, not just consumers. Making their own movies, taking photographs, and creating online content can help them develop critical thinking, social, technical and artistic skills.

Helping your child get media benefits

You can help your child get media benefits by being involved with your child and her use of media – for example, you can visit quality websites together, encourage your child to use educational software, and view TV shows that offer extra learning opportunities.

When you’re watching TV and movies together, try discussing how the plot works, how your child feels about what’s happening and what would happen in real life if you behaved badly or illegally.

You can also talk about how the people are actors, and how special effects make things seem to happen.

Deciding what's ‘good’

Deciding whether a TV program, movie, computer game or website is good quality can be tricky.

You can be guided by the age classification, and you can use your own judgment of whether it’s high quality, challenging and well made. Other parents and your child’s teachers can also be a useful source of information about quality media that’s good for kids.

Content with a good story that doesn’t depend on violence for its entertainment value is always worth looking for.

You can also look for TV programs and movies that give your child the chance to find out about places, animals, people, ideas, issues and cultures he couldn’t see or connect with otherwise. These can inspire him to try new activities and think about new ideas. This can be done through playing, creating something or finding out more about a topic. 

Movies or TV programs with good role models can also positively influence your child. Good role models are people or characters who are doing things or behaving in ways that you wouldn’t mind your child copying, or that you would like your child to copy.

Some movies and TV programs can expose your child to diversity, especially ethnic diversity, which is a good thing.

Software, apps and websites that get children drawing pictures or making up stories or rhymes can foster creativity. For preschoolers especially, this can also be a way for them to express ideas and feelings.

Computer games that give young children simple choices – choosing a character or finding a background for a picture – can also help your child make creative decisions. The more interactive computer games and websites are, the better they’ll be in helping your child learn more effectively. 

Avatars and games can give older children and teenagers the opportunity to develop their identity by letting them them ‘try on’ different physical and psychological characteristics.

Video Using technology

In this short video, teenagers and their parents talk together about the different ways members of the family use media and technology such as the internet, computers and television. They also discuss the family rules that apply to technology use and screen time.
Screen time is the time you spend on screen-based activities each day – TV, movies, DVDs, the internet, video games and phones. The latest guidelines separate school-related screen time and recreational screen time. They recommend limiting recreational screen time to no more than two hours per day for children over five years and young people. For your child’s development, it’s best to balance your child’s media use with creative play, sport and music.
  • Last updated or reviewed 16-06-2015
  • Acknowledgements Content in this article was developed in collaboration with Lee Burton, independent consultant.