5 ways to use your kids’ screen time for good

A computer training class helps Syrian refugee children learn new technology at a Child-Friendly Space and Early Childhood Education center in Lebanon. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

For more than 15 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised that kids younger than 2 avoid screens and kids older than 2 limit their screen time to two hours a day. That is a stark contrast to the average 7 hours a day that kids today spend on entertainment media.

But on October 21, they announced new guidelines for kids’ screen time. Instead of blanket recommendations like before, they’ve been further broken down by kids’ ages and the type of screen time. Overall, they’re recommending “that parents and caregivers develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.” They also launched a new online tool for family media planning.

So let’s recognize that it’s not about shutting off all screens all the time not all screen time is the same. Use screen time to teach your kids valuable life lessons. To help them learn more about the world. To spend time together. Use screen time for good.

1. LEARN

Use screen time to help your kids understand what is going on in the world.

With our 24/7 news world, it’s nearly impossible to shield your kids from current events. Did you know that news outlets like Time Magazine, The Washington Post, PBS, and CNN have news written for kids and teens? But not everything has a filter like these do.

So how do you talk with your kids about something difficult they have seen or heard in the news or on social media? How do you prepare them for what they might hear at school or while talking with friends? Here are tips on how to talk to your kids about these tough issues.

What else can we do?

Learning in action: Read about World Vision’s innovative corporate partnership that provides access to technology in rural African classrooms. These schools that once lacked basic supplies like chalk and paper are now helping students learn effectively.

2. PRAY

Use screen time to grow your kids' faith.

Prayer is a powerful, free way to make a global impact. Join us this month in praying Psalm 34:14 over the people of South Sudan. Armed conflict and food shortages make South Sudan one of the most difficult places to live right now.

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” —Psalm 34:14 (NIV)

Tell your kids about some of the struggles kids and their parents are going through in South Sudan. Then help them pray:

  • Dear Heavenly Father, help the kids in South Sudan. Provide them with food and water if they do not have it anymore.
  • Protect kids and their parents from people who are fighting around them.
  • Take care of the kids who have had to leave their homes. Watch out for them and help them find safe homes.
  • Help families who have had to split up find each other again.
  • More than anything, Lord, please bring peace to South Sudan so that everyone can go home and be safe.

What else can we do?

3. PLAY

Use screen time to help your kids have fun.

When your kids play fun games, they might not even realize they’re learning! So find games that also grow their minds.

Have them walk a mile in another kid’s shoes. See how they would survive as the head of a child family in Rwanda in this multiple choice activity. Have them each try it a couple times to see how their choices change the outcome.

You can also print, make, and play The Game of Life as a family. Each of you will step into the shoes of a child from another country and see what their life is like.

What else can we do?

Kids at play: Whether they live in a rural African village or American suburbs, kids are kids — and kids everywhere love games. See what kinds of sports and games kids play around the world. Or find out more about Raya, the New Sesame Street™ character who helps save lives with handwashing and hygiene.

4. CREATE

Use screen time to make something.

You don’t have to get on a plane to go global with your family. Use your screen time to bring the world to your dinner table and give your kids some fun conversation starters.

We have gathered 3 authentic, easy recipes for you and your family — from Kenya, China, and Bolivia — along with dinner prayers and a slideshow of children in each country.

What else can we do?

Kids make their own joy: Plastic bags, rocks, cardboard: Sometimes the most fun comes from regular stuff. See what kids from around the world have made.

5. GIVE

Use screen time to raise generous kids.

No matter how old your kids are, they can use their time, treasure, and talents to change the world — and themselves.

It’s easy! They can use their passion to raise funds for clean water, child protection, or healthcare through an event, special occasion like their birthday, or just because. Here’s how.

What else can we do?

Generosity in action: 11-year-old Tyler has turned his big dreams of bringing clean water to communities in Africa into reality. Learn about his simple idea that made a big impact and how other kids like him are changing the world and themselves.

BONUS: Tips for you to help manage your kids' screen time

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