Sharing screen time with children: why it’s good

Screen time can be good for your child. It can help her learn new things.

Your child will get the most out of screen time when he uses screens together with you. This is because your child learns best from interactive, hands-on experiences with people who care about him.

Screen time is a normal part of life for most children. The time your child spends watching TV and using computers, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

What you need for shared screen time

Look for apps, games, YouTube, movies and TV shows that are designed for your child’s age group and that:

  • expose your child to new and familiar words
  • encourage interaction, like singing or responding to cues from the characters
  • model friendly behaviour, like cooperation and respect – for example, The Wiggles and Bananas in Pyjamas
  • spark imaginative play – for example, Mister Maker
  • build letter and number knowledge and vocabulary – for example, Sesame Street.

Avoid content that’s directed at older children or adults. This might be scary or confusing for your child. Avoid content with a lot of advertising. Children don’t always understand that ads are trying to sell them something. Ads can also leave children feeling unhappy about who they are and what they have.

How to share screen time with your child

  • Decide on apps, games, YouTube, movies and TV shows that you want your child to watch or play.
  • Choose something together. For example, let your child choose from a selection of entertaining and educational programs that you’ve put together.
  • Watch or play with your child. Make sure your child knows that you’re looking forward to doing this with her.
  • If the game or show encourages interaction, encourage your child to join in by joining in too. For example, this could be singing along or answering questions.
  • Talk about what’s happening and explain things that might not be obvious. Encourage a response from your child – for example, ‘Why do you think Big Bird did that?’ or ‘What did you like best?’

Adapting shared screen time for children of different ages

It’s important for you to be there to talk with your younger child about what he’s watching, because he’s still learning the difference between reality and fantasy.

Your older child might be curious about or interested in apps, games, YouTube, movies and TV shows that her older friends or siblings like. It’s up to you to decide what’s appropriate for your child.