Screen Time—It’s Not All Bad!

The debate about video games goes on and on.

But people have been rethinking the idea of it being strictly negative for child development. Psychologists have begun to explore the plusses of screen time. The key isn’t limiting time in front of screens, but in controlling what is on them. A recent study published in Pediatrics concluded that “an intervention to reduce exposure to screen violence and increase exposure to pro-social programming can positively impact child behavior.” In fact, the study showed that children that were exposed to educational video games had better scores on social competence and behavior evaluation tests. Even teachers are using video games more and more in their classrooms. At the New York City school Quest to Learn, digital games are an integral part of the founding philosophy and curriculum.

What does this mean for parents? You don’t have to beat yourself up for sticking your kid in front of a screen from time to time! (Really, who can help doing that?) Now that we know that it really does matter what we choose for our kids, it’s time to plan accordingly.

What’s one of our favorite resources? iCivics, an amazing website founded by the first female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. The website produces educational video games and teaching materials that center around learning about government and America. All 16 video games are available for free online, which is pretty darn amazing.

On the Nintendo (read: not free) side of things, we’ve got a few favorite video games for kids:

Scribblenauts is a great single-player game that asks kids to solve spatial puzzles. This is great for the cognitive development  and will teach your kid to have a good sense of direction (although by the time he needs to use said skill, he’ll probably have a Google Maps chip in his head…)

We’re also fans of the Professor Layton series. The games, which feature great puzzles and logic problems, are fit into a developed narrative. And we can’t stress enough how storytelling is important for creativity, so this game really provides a lot.

Want a game that will help with specific school subjects? Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree helps with math and logic, while My Word Coach—which is designed by linguists—helps kids expand and improve their vocabulary.

In terms of iPad games, we think Conversation Builder Teen is such a cool idea and a great resource. In fact, we love pretty much everything available at the Mobile Education Store, which offers a great variety of apps that are built with cognitive development in mind.

We’re pretty excited to see what the future holds for games. South By Southwest began today and will be unveiling a whole bunch of new things at SXSW Interactive. The full list of finalists for the SXSW Interactive Awards can be found here.

Do you let your kids play video games? Which are their favorites?