Screens are now integral parts of our lives. Young kids use tablets in elementary school while the older ones use laptops. New apps and TV shows introduced regularly are educational, personalized, and beneficial. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recognized this change and recently modified its recommendations regarding screen time.
With mobile devices and WiFi enabling usage almost everywhere though, how do we manage our children’s usage to make sure they’re not watching inappropriate content? And how do we limit what kids watch on their devices?
In my last post, 6 Ways to Manage Your Kid’s Screen Time, I provided tips to make your children's TV and technology time a more useful and positive experience for the whole family. In this post, I’m going to focus on how to manage our children’s screen time access to prevent them watching digitial vido content that is above their age/maturity.
Products to Control Usage and Content
One of the biggest considerations is simply how to manage our children’s access and prevent content that is above their age/maturity. Numerous products exist that filter or curate content for us. The idea is that these products will do the “heavy lifting” so that we don’t have to watch every program to determine if it’s objectionable. Here are some options to consider:
YouTube Kids app: This app attempts to filter out inappropriate content. It also provides controls to allow parents to set time limits on viewing and further restrict content manually. It’s not perfect — it’s an attempt to filter out bad content, relying on users to report inappropriate content that makes it past the filter — but the theory is that it will block the majority of bad videos from the onset and catch the rest over time. The app is free. For young kids who watch YouTube videos, the app is definitely advisable to letting them watch YouTube with full access to all content.
PlayKids app: A curated solution that provides ad-free games, books, and videos for preschool children. It provides some popular TV shows like Sid the Science Kid and significant content from many independent creators. While the app is free to download, the amount of free content is limited. In-app purchases range from $1.99 to $9.99, so costs can add up.
Noggin app: A curated video service from Nickelodeon for preschool kids. It provides many of the station’s popular shows like Blue’s Clues and Ni Hao Kai-Lan. Noggin costs $5.99 per month, which helps parents control monthly costs for unlimited viewing. The downside is that content is limited to Nickelodeon shows. Noggin leans more “entertainment” than “educational.”
Curious World: A new service from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that provides curated videos, games, and books for kids. The service includes popular titles (e.g., Curious George books and National Geographic videos) with significant content from different independent creators. Unlimited access is more expensive at $7.99 per month, which the company attributes to its deeper content. HMH’s background in educational publishing results in an educational focus in its content, including tools to track up to four children’s progress across different educational categories.
Common Sense Media: Common Sense provides reviews and ratings on children’s products, including movies, TV shows, books, and games. While children’s maturity and abilities vary, it provides good, age-specific guidelines. Common Sense is a free site and is a great source to check products to save time watching yourself, particularly if you’re worried about a potential movie or video game.
Of course, one of the easiest solutions is simply our personal rules at home! Research has shown that screen time can be detrimental before bed or in the bedroom. We do not need specific apps to control this — we can simply set rules ourselves, such as requiring our kids to plug in their tablets in the kitchen or family room before bed. I have a friend who only allows his son to use his computer in the kitchen. And again, the added benefit when our kids’ use their screens in our home’s shared spaces, is it allows parents easier monitoringof their content.
One more point. Don't forget that we also control WiFi service in our homes. We can turn it off or change the passwords. A college buddy who uses this technique regularly with his kids, calls it the “modern day equivalent of sending them to their rooms.”
What Do You Do?
These are my suggestions, gained from conversations with lots of schools and parents. I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. Please share them with us on Scholastic Parents Facebook Page.
Featured Photo Credit: IuriiSokolov/Thinkstock