Why screen time quality is important
The quality of screen time matters. Good-quality screen time can have benefits for school-age 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 things they’re learning at school, or it sparks their imagination. For example, a 7-year-old can develop problem-solving and creative skills by creating an animation on a screen.
Good-quality screen time can encourage positive behaviour too. For example, watching a video that shows friends socialising respectfully at school can help your child learn what to do in different social situations at playtime or in the classroom. Likewise, videos with football or netball drills might help your child learn how to kick or shoot goals.
In contrast, poor-quality screen time has very few benefits. For example, your child won’t get much out of spending long periods watching ‘epic fail’ videos.
You can help your child learn about quality by talking with your child about whether the videos or apps they want to play or watch are good quality. As your child gets older, encourage your child to tell you why they think an app is good quality when they ask to install it.
Good-quality apps and games for school-age children
The best apps and games help your child learn and develop. Good-quality apps or games for primary school-age children can:
- encourage creativity – for example, by encouraging children to paint, or create content like video clips, animations or comics
- encourage problem-solving – for example, by helping children explore the possible results of virtual science experiments
- develop communication skills – for example, by helping children learn other languages, or keep in touch with friends and family
- develop social skills and caring behaviour – for example, by encouraging children to take turns, work as a team or help others
- reduce children’s stress and boost their wellbeing – for example, by guiding them through child-friendly mindfulness or relaxation activities
- promote a healthy lifestyle – for example, by helping children stay fit and well with dance or yoga apps.
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.
- Content – make sure your child doesn’t use apps and games that promote gambling, unhealthy eating or violence of any kind.
- Advertising – be wary of apps that feature movie characters, unhealthy food or other popular products.
- In-app purchases – check that in-app purchases are blocked and one-click payment options are disabled.
- 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 children to manage their frustration in these situations.
Children often want the apps and games their friends have. A family media plan can give you some ground rules to help you manage this kind of peer influence and pestering.
Good-quality TV shows, movies and YouTube for school-age children
Good-quality TV shows, movies and YouTube videos for school-age children:
- have positive messages about relationships, family and lifestyle
- have inclusive messages about disability, gender, race and culture
- inspire new off-screen play ideas for children once they’ve finished watching
- have interesting stories that feature kind and respectful characters
- 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 through product placement or merchandise tie-ins
- have ideas or story elements that are too mature or complex for children to understand.
Online reviews can help you decide whether a movie, app or game is high 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.