Why screen time quality is important
The quality of screen time matters. Good-quality screen time can have benefits for young children’s learning and behaviour.
Screen time can support your child’s learning when it’s good-quality and balanced with other activities like physical play, creative play, reading and socialising. It’s especially good if it ties in with your child’s interests or sparks their imagination.
For example, your child could use an insect identification app to look for bugs when you go for a family walk. This might help your child learn new things about the environment. It might also spark some creative thinking about what it’s like to be a bug.
Good-quality screen time can encourage positive behaviour too. For example, you and your child could watch a TV or YouTube Kids show that encourages sharing, helping others and cooperating. Then afterwards you could use characters or ideas from the show to guide your child’s behaviour.
In contrast, poor-quality digital media has very few benefits. For example, your child won’t get much out of spending time alone watching animations that include ads for toys or unhealthy foods.
Talking with your child about whether a game or TV program is good quality can help your child start to learn about what makes a good-quality TV program, movie, app or game.
Good-quality apps and games for preschoolers
The best apps and games help your child learn and develop. Good-quality apps or games for preschoolers can:
- encourage creativity – for example, by encouraging children to draw pictures or create and act out stories
- encourage problem-solving – for example, by encouraging children to work out the most appropriate clothes for characters to wear in rainy weather
- develop communication skills – for example, by prompting children to ask for something in a café, or chat to family and friends
- develop social skills and caring behaviour – for example, by encouraging children to take turns, work as a team or help others
- build on interests – for example, by encouraging animal-loving children to explore a zoo or a farm
- reduce children’s stress and boost their wellbeing – for example, by guiding them through child-friendly mindfulness activities.
To get a sense of overall quality, you can also check the following aspects of games and apps:
- Age range – check that the age range for an app or game matches your child’s age.
- Advertising – be wary of apps that feature movie characters or popular products, because these apps often promote consumption and specific products.
- Privacy settings – check the terms and conditions to see whether and how apps collect data, and make sure you’re comfortable with this.
- Addictiveness – be wary of games that make children feel they need to play ‘just one more game’, including games that don’t allow children to save their progress. It can be hard for young children to manage their frustration in these situations.
Good-quality TV shows, movies and YouTube for preschoolers
Good-quality TV shows, movies and YouTube videos for preschoolers:
- have positive messages about relationships, family and lifestyle
- have inclusive messages about disability, gender, race and culture
- include common scenarios and situations that children like playing in real life, like ‘hospital’ or ‘zoo’
- inspire new off-screen play ideas for children
- encourage children to answer questions or do what the characters on screen are doing, like dancing or singing
- have good stories that feature characters who treat each other kindly and respectfully
- are age appropriate.
To get a sense of overall quality, you can also check content, messages and characters, and avoid TV, movies and videos that:
- celebrate violence, bad attitudes, unhealthy eating, gambling and other antisocial activities
- are designed to market or sell products to children
- have ideas or story elements that are too mature or complex for young children to understand.
Online reviews can help you decide whether a movie, app or game is good quality and has educational benefits. Try our movie reviews or reviews on Common Sense Media. Use Australian Classification to find out what different age classifications mean.