Making Screen Time Count

As our social interactions and educational experiences move online, deciding how much (or how little) screen time we allow has been shifting dramatically; because the expert answers that existed previously have undergone a serious re-imagining. When most social interactions outside your immediate family are online, children’s social needs factor into the screen-time equation more than ever.

Many adults can struggle to find the balance of what works best even for themselves, so struggling to find balance for their children as well introduces whole new sets of challenges. I personally have found that all the phone calls in the world cannot replace seeing my friends and family in a video call. While I used to prefer a voice only call, I now find myself video calling everyone because I need to see my co-workers, friends, and families faces for my own mental health. We have been fortunate enough to offer a variety of programming in the new virtual world and these are the key elements that we have found are important to us, and our Mad Science & Imagine Arts Academy families when we are making those screen time decisions.


·       Educational elements – With the last school semester being so different this year, it is important to many families to keep kids learning at home. There are many wonderful options out there! It is easy to find something educational that aligns with your child’s interest.


·       Social interaction with children – Keeping children social with other children has been a very vocal need with our parents. The need to giggle and have fun with friends is real for our little ones, and for us too.


·       Social interaction with adults – Real life role models are not new to our children, but online education may have been the first virtual role model that your child has known outside of family. Now I find myself becoming fast friends with co-workers kids when they “sneak” into a meeting to say hello or give a wave.


·       Independent elements – We all need a break. Even our kids need some time to do things “on their own”. Programs that your child can do without parental assistance will give them a change in routine and give them some sense of satisfaction in their independence. Being “own their own” does not mean the same thing in the virtual world though. We have seen many children working independently during programs while a parent is beside them “doing their own work”.

 ·       Live elements – Live stream programming is closer to real life. A realistic pace has been shown to reduce overstimulation. Young brains can be overwhelmed by a sensory experience that is too fast-paced.  Which makes mixing in some live programming in real time beneficial; especially if your child is overstimulated easily.

·       Active elements – An Australian study on active and passive screen usage found that there are actually two types of active screen use. Physical active screen use is when you are doing physical activity such as playing a video game that incorporates exercise and cognitive active screen use is when critical thinking skills or even the creative side of the brain is activated. 

·       During the regular school day (or at least not before bedtime) – Studies have shown that screen time in the hours before bedtime makes getting to sleep more of a challenge.  Which means that getting your little one to sleep might be a little easier if their screen time is limited in the evening.

The answer for every child  and every family is different.  Our needs and family situations are all complex and we hope that you find the right balance for your family. One thing that this Spring has taught me is that we need to be flexible. Flexible with expectations, flexible with perceptions, flexible with our day to day lives.

Please enjoy some fun, free videos of science experiment to do at home with your kids.

Guest author : Adrianna Hagan - Mad Science of Austin & San Antonio