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All Screen Time is NOT Created Equal

Attempting to limit my children’s screen time to less than two hours per day (like many experts have recommended) felt like a losing battle.  Digital media is not going away and a good portion of my sons’ lives (and mine) is connected to technology.

I began to realise that time monitoring in this day and age was not black and white. What I ALSO needed to appreciate more fully was content monitoring.

My son playing Minecraft was NOT quite the same as him playing Grand Theft Auto.

Is it educational?

A modest amount of Minecraft can actually be good for your kids.

– Dr Randy Kulman, Ph.D., Learning Works for Kids

Dr Randy Kulman has focused much of his thoughtful work on better understanding the value of digital play for children.  This includes how children can benefit from video games, apps and other technologies.

Have you ever told your child it’s time to stop playing video games and been met with an argument like, “But I’m learning so much from playing this game!”?

Well, there’s a good chance that your child was actually telling you the truth. While we recognize that well-rounded learning requires far more than playing video games, and that some games are clearly better opportunities for learning than others, there is no denying the power of video games play as a tool for emotional well-being, academic skill boosting, and the building of executive functions.

– Dr Randy Kulman, Ph.D., Learning Works for Kids

Take, for instance, strategic video games like my son’s beloved Minecraft. Little did I know that the game was improving his problem solving skills, planning, ability to focus and be creative. It wasn’t until I actually immersed myself in my son’s Minecraft world that I was able to understand the real value of what he was doing.

Is it social?

Gamers are reaping the social benefits when their friends come over and they play computer games together. They’re often strategizing, managing complex tasks and forming and managing teams.

– Professor Mark McMahon, Edith Cowan University (ECU) Associate

So it can check the educational box… but is your child’s screen time encouraging your kids to be social or antisocial?  Professor Mark McMahon believes that some screen time (let’s be specific: video games) can actually build social skills in children.

Both Dr Randy Kulman and Elaine Taylor-Klaus agree that video games can be incorporated into our kids’ lives in a healthy way.  While quite rightly recognising the challenges of digital media for children with ADHD, Elaine Taylor-Klaus also brings up a great point about Minecraft’s ability to be a positive social tool.

By creating LANs (local area networks) for games like Minecraft, for instance, you can control who plays with your kid online – creating a sort of virtual recess with friends who live across town or family members who live across the country. And maybe even you – across the room! 

– Elaine Taylor-Klaus, Co-Founder of ImpactADHD

At certain stages of development (and with reasonable guidance in place), I found that Minecraft helped my sons to interact with their peers and cooperate as a team.  This made me me to be more thoughtful about content monitoring when it came to their screen time.


So your child’s screen sometimes checks both boxes. It CAN be both educational and social. Great! But does that mean we shouldn’t worry about limiting their screen time? (To be completely upfront, my view is that screen time limits are essential for most children – and adults – for a number of reasons.) Nonetheless, at times, content monitoring may be more realistic than time monitoring… but what happens when screen time is negatively impacting your child’s sleep pattern, physical activity and family time? Where do you draw the line? Let’s get the conversation flowing in the comments below!

photo credit: Ben Andreas Harding via Flickr

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7 years ago

Some useful points about viewing some video gaming as positive while still suggesting setting limits on screen time… Something I find with minecraft in particular though is it can be very difficult to get my 9 year old to finish his session even with using timers as he says he can’t just save it and continue where he left off, I then get grumpy as I’ve been generous with screen time only to have my requests to finish up be rudely ignored – he gets in a bad mood culminating in hitting out and storming to his room when I… Read more »

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