How Much Smartphone Time Should Your Kids Really Be Having?

It’s a fast-changing world out there, and that’s especially true for parents. Kids today are digital natives — a rare example of a buzzword actually having some heft to it. Children born after the introduction of the world wide web in the early ’90s were born into a world of readily accessible knowledge, information, entertainment — everything! So, how is raising kids in the digital world changing things for both parents and kids? Digital Kids Media president Tonda Bunge Sellers talked about that question with MommyTech TV’s Rebecca Levey at CES 2016.

Like with television for the generations before, parents are faced with the problem of finding the right amount of screen time for their kids. But, it’s a little different now — instead of the purely passive experience of television watching, mobile devices and the internet open up worlds of new creative possibilities for kids. Smartphone screen time doesn’t have to mean hours of gaming — kids could (and often do!) learn new skills, build communities, and start making money by streaming themselves playing games. Unlike television, mobile screen time can be an enriching and very active experience.

The new digital age is also changing the way kids look at playtime. Sellers talked about how unsatisfactory early attempts at merging toys and apps were. They usually amounted to regular toys with token companion app experiences, and the two didn’t necessarily go together even if they were marketed together. That’s changing — games like Skylanders, Lego Dimensions, and Disney Infinity all directly use physical toys as part of the digital world, and have set the template for physical/digital crossover games.

Still, it’s a challenge to find and set boundaries for kids in the digital age — as everyone knows, the connected world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sellers’ organization, Digital Kids Media, is interested in probing those questions and helping parents to find satisfying answers. They’ve been running conferences and events for 10 years, conducting research on how the digital world affects kids, parents, and their relationship with each other. Interestingly, one finding is that kids now make more decisions with their parents, instead of parents making more decisions themselves. If that means we’re getting better-informed kids, then it looks like this new generation is going to turn out just fine.

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