Why screen time quality is important

The quality of screen time matters. For school-age children, good-quality screen time has benefits in two key areas:

  • learning
  • behaviour.

Good-quality screen time can support your child’s learning, especially if it ties in with his interests or things he’s learning at school, or sparks his imagination. For example, a seven-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 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 her about whether the videos or apps she wants to play or watch are good quality. As your child gets older, encourage her to tell you why she thinks an app is good quality when she asks 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:

  • 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
  • help develop communication skills – for example, by helping children learn other languages, or keep in touch with friends and family
  • help develop social skills – for example, by encouraging children to take turns or play as part of a team.

Other practical things to think about include:

  • age range – it’s a good idea to 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 are often designed to promote movies and 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 the data they collect and what they use data for.

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 programs, movies and YouTube for school-age children

Good-quality TV programs, movies and YouTube videos for school-age children:

  • have positive messages about relationships, family and life – avoid those that make violence or bad attitudes look good
  • inspire new off-screen play ideas for children once they’ve finished watching
  • have good stories that feature characters who treat each other with kindness and respect – avoid programs that are just about selling promotional toys, apps and gear
  • are age appropriate – for example, the themes of some movies are too mature for primary school-age children.

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.