What's Better for Kids: Computers, TV or Video Games?

Filed under: Media, Expert Advice: Tweens, Expert Advice: Teens

Computers, TV, or Games

How does a parent choose which media to allow their kids to spend time with? Credit: Getty Images

It's a daily dilemma: If you allow a certain amount of screen time per day -- whether it's TV, the computer or a video game -- which one is the best way for kids to spend their time?

Is it video games? After all, they're interactive, have teaching potential and there's the possibility they could help your kid develop quick reflexes.

What about time online? Lots of parents value what their kids can do on the Internet -- like get help with their homework and learn facts from wiki sites.

And how about the good ol' tube? There are so many educational shows that expose kids to the wonders of the world. Plus, TV watching can be family time.

There's no magic formula. As long as you limit the total screen time and choose age-appropriate shows, games and websites, a screen is a screen is a screen. Also, the lines between each type of screen are blurring. Kids are watching TV online, downloading movies to the Wii and playing games on their phone. It's all screen time. What's important, is how you manage whatever screen happens to be calling out to your kid.

How to Figure Out What's Best for Your Kid

Know your kid: What kind of mood is your kid in today? You may want her to spend some quality time on the computer with Math Missions, but it won't be productive if she's tired. Consider letting her watch a show such as "Crashbox," which has challenging but fun interactive games that stimulate young minds.

Maintain balance: Lots of TV time this week? Even an educational immersion in Shark Week can make kids' eyes glaze over and their muscles atrophy. Ease them over to an active game like Wii Sports. Sure, it's still screen time, but at least they're moving.

Choose wisely: What they're watching, playing and interacting with does matter. Help kids make age-appropriate choices so that the content is in sync with where they are developmentally.

Relax: Don't feel guilty for letting your kid blow off some steam with Bejeweled or vegging out in front of iCarly. TV, computer and video games can all be great educational resources to tap into when you need them, but kids don't need to be drilled all of the time in order to learn.

Written by Caroline Knorr.

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Get more information for parents on media and technology by checking out Common Sense Media.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.