A positive approach to screen time


It’s no secret that our kids are living in a digital world. As parents and caregivers, we play an important role in helping kids create healthy relationships with screen time. When used appropriately, screen time can benefit daily life, but it’s important to know which media sources are smart choices for kids. Tony Durr, an assistant professor with the Department of Teaching, Learning and Leadership at South Dakota State University, shares how we can encourage kids to use media in a positive way.

In addition to today’s segment, Tony provided the following information to aide parents in their understanding of the positive approach to screen time:

Not all screen time is the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides screen time guidelines, but sometime too much emphasis is placed on the time rather than the content. Used appropriately, media and devices can even have a positive impact on kids’ education and development.

Parent Engagement

The AAP guidelines emphasize the importance of parent involvement when kids are engaging with various forms of media. This social connection has developmental and cognitive benefits to the child. It can help a child understand what they are viewing or interacting with. This is especially important with platforms like YouTube. On YouTube there is an abundance of valuable, interesting, and relevant content that is appropriate for kids, but it is important for parents to assist children in finding and assessing the content. The predictive algorithms can quickly transition videos on, how to style the hair of an American Girl doll, into recommendations that aren’t suitable for kids.

Additionally, there are benefits to the social interaction itself. If my son is playing Mario Cart alone, he is engaged solely with the device and his brain activity is connected to the game itself. But if I am playing with him, we are interacting with each other and the game is the subject of the interaction, not the interaction itself, and the brain activity of the child is richer and more complex.

Content is King

The content being consumed, whether it is video or an interactive game, is also very important. Some content can even have benefits when consumed in appropriate amounts. Sesame Street, for example, is one the most researched programs on television. Decades of study have found that Sesame Street has a positive impact on skills like vocabulary development. So, while Sponge Bob be entertaining, kids may get or out of watching a show like The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation on Keloland on Saturday mornings.  

Mobile technology has also supported the development of some very educational and entertaining applications. For example, many students in schools will create stop motion videos, video blogs, or animated presentations to demonstrate their learning of a topic, rather than the traditional essay or research paper.  Another example, Osmo uses tactile pieces and the camera on mobile devices to create educational learning games that combine technology and physical manipulatives. 


Tony Durr is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Leadership at South Dakota State University with a PhD in educational policy and leadership.

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