9 Ways to Turn Screen Time Into Family Time
Your family can benefit from watching computer, tablet, or smartphone screens if you approach it the right way.
If you think screen time is the time of day when your kids zone and out and turn into little tech-induced zombies, it’s time to look at things a little differently. Sure, it can happen that way, but it doesn’t have to.
Handled properly, screen time can be an occasion for family fun (and the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines that treat screen time as being less harmful as than AAP used to say it was). So the next time your kids turn to their screens, why not join in and create a little bonding time while you all have a blast? It’s easier—and a lot more entertaining—than you might think. Here are some of our favorite ways to make it happen.
1. Explore YouTube
We all know that YouTube is basically a rabbit hole of short video-watching possibilities, and it’s full of videos that you and your kids can enjoy together. Take turns searching for your faves, and spend an evening laughing until you cry at funny cats or learning a thing or two about your kids' favorite video games.
2. Get a gaming lesson (from your kids)
Video games have changed a lot since our day. And since mastering today’s popular consoles involves a bit of a learning curve, ask your kids for a tutoring session. They’ll be thrilled at your interest, as well as getting a big confidence boost because their parent is asking them for help. You never know—you just might end up with a new and unexpected hobby.
3. Try multiplayer games
Once you have a handle on the console, give gaming with your kid a whirl. Pick a multiplayer game that lets you play with or against each other, and you’ll both have a blast—I promise. Just be sure to keep an eye on the clock, or you’re likely to miss bedtime. Time flies when you’re having fun!
4. Go old school
If you’re learning how to play your kids’ games, it’s only fair that they get to experience yours, too. And don't worry if your old consoles are lost somewhere in the attic—Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation have made old-school games available to play online. Download a couple of your childhood favorites and show your kids what classic video games look like.
5. Read a book
It may not be easy to get your kids excited about reading, but introducing them to digital books may open up a whole new world. Download some books that you know they’ll love, and read them together on a tablet or e-reader. The ability to swipe through the pages might be enough to pique their interest in stories—and put a new spin on your bedtime routine.
6. Get into the selfies game
Kids love to take selfies. So grab a phone and have a selfie session, taking turns making silly faces and smiling for the camera. You may even grab a couple of keepers worth printing out or posting to Facebook.
7. Have fun with filters
While you’re practicing your selfie game, pull out some filters and see how silly or fantastical you can get. Add makeup, horns, silly hats, and more—and watch your kids bubble with laughter the entire time.
8. Make it movie night
Family movie night is a classic way to spend an evening together. Pick a film that everyone will enjoy, fix some snacks, and cuddle up in front of the biggest screen in your house.
9. Make a call
There’s something magical to kids about video calling. Talking to the people on the screen and watching them talk back, is genuinely thrilling. Whether absent family members live down the street or across the world, make a video call and have a chat. It's a fun way to spend time with your kids, and it gives them a new way to connect with other members of your family. Don’t get discouraged if they spend more time at first making faces at the camera than actually talking; the novelty of doing that will wear off…eventually.