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Screen Time and Your Child – Choosing the Best Content for Your Child: Part 2

Article contributed by Zest Pediatrics – The Nest Schools Medical Education Partner

Screen Time and Your Child – Choosing the Best Content for Your Child: Part 2

 

Last month, in Part 1 of this series, we discussed the impact of screen time on your child and how to create a family screen time plan. This month we focus on how to choose appropriate content and offer some suggestions. 

Much of this content is from one of our colleagues, Ely Schneider, Ph.D., who is the Chief Clinical Officer at Vitalxchange.  We thank her for her insights and suggestions.

First, let’s discuss how to choose the best content for your child. This is fairly straightforward and logical.

Pick apps that are age-appropriate. This is usually noted in the description. And remember, as noted last month in creating your family screen plan, make sure that younger kids are not viewing the older kids’ content, especially if you have teens around your toddler.

Interactive apps are far better than the couch-potato passive apps. Think about sight, sound, and opportunity for engagement. Similarly, the app should have some educational value for language and cognitive abilities (learn colors, shapes, letters, etc.) and maybe even assist with creativity. Stay away from simple animated cartoons or stories.  

Some apps for young kids have parental controls or the ability to set a timer (bonus). Of course, you should get apps that are free from ads.

Finding the Right App for Your Child

Local libraries are often excellent but overlooked resources for families. For example, many local community libraries offer free access to the Epic! app, which provides families access to a vast digital library of books and audiobooks.

Dr. Schneider highly recommends https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews. It is an easy-to-use resource for app searches, allowing you to enter personal preferences and a child’s age and filter by category of interest.

The following are some of Dr. Schneider’s favorite apps – there are so many, but this is a great place to start. Thanks, Dr. Schneider.

Educational Apps

  • Letter Identification & Phonics
    • Endless ABC – Animated alphabet flashcards with word puzzles and games.
    • Starfall Reading – Phonics-based learn-to-read app with interactive stories and songs.
    • Secret Stories – Uses phonics secrets and logic to teach reading. Engaging videos.
  • Reading Comprehension
    • Reading Eggs – Games and lessons that teach reading comprehension. Adaptive to the child’s level.
    • Wonderscope – Augmented reality app brings stories to life. Interactive activities promote literacy.
  • Writing Practice
    • Nessy Writing Beach – Fun games to practice handwriting and typing.
    • Early Numeracy
    • Teach Me Preschool – Hands-on games teach shapes, patterns, and counting.
    • Writing Practice
    • Nessy Writing Beach – Fun games to practice handwriting and typing.
    • Early Numeracy
    • Teach Me Preschool – Hands-on games teach shapes, patterns, and counting.
  • Early Numeracy
    • Teach Me Preschool – Hands-on games teach shapes, patterns, and counting.
  • Math
    • Moose Math – Builds math skills through visual math puzzles with Moose and his friends.
    • Monster Math – Math game with spooky monsters. Addition, subtraction, and more.
  • Social Studies/Geography
    • Geo Walk – Augmented reality app with interactive elements (developed by Natl Geographic).
  • Foreign Language
    • Duolingo – Learn new languages through quick, bite-sized lessons. Earn rewards as you progress.
  • Creativity/Art
    • Draw and Tell – Creative drawing and storytelling. Has a sharing feature.

 

Developmental/Behavioral Apps

  • Daniel Tiger’s Day & Night & Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Day – Emotional regulation focus. Helps practice morning and bedtime routines, emotions, and life lessons through interactive activities.
  • GoNoodle—Movement and mindfulness videos. They have a variety of channels and focus on highly engaging content that teaches or reinforces skills, healthy habits, or values. GoNoodle is often utilized in schools as well, so it will likely be familiar to many families.
  • CalmKids – Meditation, breathing exercises.
  • HappyPillar – Interactive app to help parents teach social/emotional well-being and self-regulation.
  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame – Teaches self-regulation.
  • Super Stretch Yoga – Yoga app with poses and breathing exercises. Cute theme.
  • Sesame Street Monster Manner – Teaches manners/values in a fun monster-themed game.
  • HappyKids – Tracks chores/habits with a reward system. Fun animations.
  • Touch and Learn Emotions – Uses fun animations to teach identifying feelings and emotional regulation.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game – Promotes healthy eating through fun caterpillar games.
  • SuperBetter – A game-based app that builds resilience and well-being.
  • Todoist—This is a great app for creating to-do lists and breaking down tasks into manageable chunks. It provides reminders and due dates to help keep kids on track. It is worthwhile for kids with executive functioning challenges.

Visual Timers and/or Digital Timers

Can be used for time management, executive functioning deficits, assistance with establishing routines, etc.

  • Time Timer – Displays a red circular timer that visually shows time elapsing – you can set custom durations and alarms. *Also have a “Time Timer MOD” version made specifically for classroom use.
  • Visual Timer—This app shows a pie chart-style timer that gradually fills in as time elapses. You can customize colors and alarm sounds.
  • MotiV – Has fun visual countdown animations and reward incentives you can set up.

Screen Time / Online Safety Apps

Note: Both iPhones and Android have built-in parental controls for managing safety and access, but here are a few apps that may interest you.

  • Kidslox – Parental controls to block apps/websites. Set time limits.
  • Google Family Link – Manage apps and set screen time limits.
  • YouTube Kids – Safer YouTube alternative with content filters.
  • Qustodio – Tracks calls, texts, location, and social media activities. Can block sites and limit usage.
  • FamilyTime—This app allows parents to see texts, calls, emails, locations, and even block apps and sites. It works on both Android and iPhone.
  • Norton Family Premier – Shows all texts and allows monitoring social media and setting time limits across devices.

Though not an app, Gabb Wireless is of interest –a kid-safe cell phone and a watch. It is a great option for parents who want to enable their child to communicate while filtering out many of the potential dangers of providing a mobile phone with relatively open access to social media, the World Wide Web, etc. The phones and watches are often given away via promotion codes at various times throughout the year, so families only have to pay the monthly subscription costs and activation fee.

Have fun, and remember to follow your family’s screen plan. This month’s Nest Builders webinar will provide additional information and discuss related screen and app topics.