Why screen time quality is important

The quality of screen time matters. For teenagers, good-quality screen time has benefits in several areas. It can:

  • support learning
  • prompt imagination
  • improve understanding of real-world issues.

For example, writing a blog, using an app to create music, or filming and editing short movies can develop your child’s communication, creativity and problem-solving skills. Engaging with reliable news media can help your child better understand local, national and international issues. And watching a TEDx talk can help your child learn something new.

In contrast, poor-quality screen time has very few benefits. For example, your child won’t get much out of long periods watching ‘epic fail’ videos.

It’s a good idea to encourage your child to think about the quality of what he’s watching or playing. You can ask him why he thinks something is or isn’t good quality.

Good-quality apps and games for teenagers

The best apps and games help your child learn and develop. Good-quality apps or games for teenagers:

  • encourage creativity – for example, by encouraging teenagers to create content like video clips, animations or comics
  • encourage problem-solving – for example, by taking teenagers through the possible results of virtual science experiments
  • help develop communication skills – for example, by helping teenagers learn other languages, or keep in touch with friends on social media
  • help develop social skills – for example, by encouraging teenagers to achieve goals as part of a team in a multiplayer game.

Other practical things to think about include:

  • age rating – it’s a good idea to check that the age rating for an app or game matches your teenage child’s age
  • 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 it for
  • in-app purchases – talk with your child about in-app purchases and disabling one-click payment options.

Teenagers often want the games and apps their friends have. A family media plan can give you some ground rules to help you manage this kind of peer influence.

Good-quality TV programs, movies and YouTube for teenagers

Good-quality TV programs, movies and YouTube for teenagers:

  • have positive messages about relationships, family and life – avoid those that make violence or bad attitudes look good
  • inspire interest in new topics or improve understanding of real-world issues
  • are age appropriate – for example, the themes of some movies aren’t suitable for teenagers
  • encourage teenagers to reflect on their own values and experiences.

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.