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(BPT) - School is out for the summer, and parents everywhere are worried about their kids spending too much time staring at their screens. If you are one of those worried parents, take a moment and determine what your child is actually doing with their screens. It’s one thing if they’re just consuming content, it’s another if they’re actually using their screen to be productive. Screens actually can be tools to enhance learning, spark creativity and teach new skills. The key is to tap into your child’s interests and discover screen-time options that provide a balance between consuming and creating.
Digital parenting expert Leticia Barr has been helping parents navigate the digital age for years. Her award-winning blog, called Tech Savvy Mama, advises a big part of managing summer screen time is being able to distinguish between active and passive screen time. When kids are actively engaged, they’re learning through the content on the screen whereas passive screen time is all about consumption. As parents, it’s critical that we know the difference between the two and recognize when our kids are just consuming content versus using technology as a learning tool. It’s easy to see them on a screen and harp on them to get off when really, they might be learning a useful skill.
Barr offers guidelines to help parents search out ways kids can actually learn through screens this summer to keep their minds active and avoid the summer slide.
1) Find games that challenge kids to think.
Games involving problem-solving help kids feel a sense of accomplishment. When they analyze a problem and resolve it successfully, it boosts confidence. Many games today incorporate problem-solving as part of the adventure, such as multi-player games that introduce quests or challenges to solve.
2) Look for games that require collaboration and teamwork.
Games can encourage collaboration, communication skills and create a sense of community. In-game friendships (sometimes with players many states away) can expand the world around them. Games rooted in a positive, shared social experience and teamwork encourage collaboration and friendship.
3) Find games that involve reading.
Believe it or not, there are games where reading is a healthy part of the process. Barr points to Star Stable, an online horse game geared for today’s tween/teen girls that has more words than the Lord of the Rings series, and in fact, the storyline for the game evolves each week.
4) Discover a game that encourages design and art.
Kids can use games to explore their creative side this summer. In fact, the first step of playing Star Stable requires players to design their own character and horse. These kinds of games can spark a new interest and keep the creative juices flowing during the summer weeks.
“Playing video games is not simply entertainment or an escape; playing video games can be a form of learning and active thinking. The best games offer intellectual challenges, social interaction and a creative outlet,” said Barr. “Games like Star Stable provide opportunities for players to think boldly and express themselves, so it is no surprise that the right game is also ideal for summer learning and fun.”
Since not all screen time is created equal, Barr advises parents to help guide kids toward activities during the summer months to keep them learning. Seek out activities, including video games, to help foster interests, learn new skills and prevent the dreaded summer slide.
Learn more about parenting in the digital age by visiting www.techsavvymama.com.