- As a mother of two young children, I know that monitoring screen time can be a difficult problem for children.
- My work has helped me identify the types of programs I want my children to watch.
- Here are the criteria I recommend parents use to determine which shows pass the screen test.
For parents, myself included, it’s natural to worry about how long children pass in front of a screen. But chasing a magic number for a screen time limit there may be something wrong.
We can set healthy limits around screen time by focusing more on the quality of content our children consume. in a survey of parents in the US conducted last June, 93% said it’s important for kids’ content to address mental and emotional health. In another survey conducted in 2021more than 70% of parents said they wanted their children to be exposed to media that taught them about cultures, religions, and lifestyles different from their own.
But on a platform like YouTube, where hundreds of hours of content are uploaded every minute, Easier said than done. Age-appropriate, entertaining, and educational content without being too simplistic has become something of a holy grail.
As a professional storyteller, I know how to identify wholesome content worthy of my children’s time. I thought it would be helpful to share my tried-and-true tactics to help other parents find content they’d like for their kids to watch.
Find a message that resonates with you
“Good for you” screen time is possible, but it has to meet critical benchmarks. To start with, there needs to be an aspirational character they can relate to and a story that supports child development. I appreciate a show that leaves room for problem solving, even more so if the situation at hand is something I can relate to as a parent.
For example, “Blue“had an episode centered around the kids not wanting to go to bed. It reflected my own struggle with bedtime. While watching it, I found it helpful to have a dialogue about how going to bed can sometimes feel difficult or not fun. My kids made the connection to what they saw on the screen. I was able to lure them into their nightly routine by talking about all the adventures they could have while dreaming, just like Bluey went to sleep.
My kids are navigating big feelings all the time. Watch YouTube series like “My Friend Lovie”, where the characters change colors based on their emotions, it’s been very helpful because it sends the message that it’s okay to have all your feelings: they’re part of life.
Authenticity wins the day
Just as we get tired of seeing perfect, filtered images on social media, we’re looking for more authenticity in kids’ content. I want my children to aspire not to be perfect but to be perfectly themselves, and I want them to see imperfect characters on their shows.
I love seeing characters overcome a struggle or tackle real world problems in a relatable way. “Ask the StoryBots” he does a great job of tackling complex topics, like why people look different, in an honest and straightforward way.
It is important to offer our young children content that depicts characters learning lessons from situations that children may also face. Life doesn’t follow a straight and predictable path, and any show that can balance the serious and lighthearted aspects that we inevitably encounter is a win in my book.
A lot of the shows I grew up on with reinforced gender norms and stereotypes I wouldn’t want to normalize for my own children. We live with the most diverse generation in history, so our children should see faces on their screens that mirror the ones they see in real life.
Take a critical look at the characters: does dad go to work while mom stays home? Are there families with two moms or two dads? Are there any colored characters? Our children’s impressions are formed by what is returned to them by the media. Seeing characters that look like them or represent different family dynamics is incredibly important.
The Netflix series “Ridley Jones” does a good job of weaving these characters together in a way that feels organic. The main character has two dads, and the adorable non-binary bison, Fred, uses they/them pronouns.
Another great example is Qai Qai, the doll of Olympia Ohanian, the daughter of Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian. Qai Qai, who has a large following on social media and a television show in development, was designed to be an inspiration for young black women to be confident.
Screen time for everyone
Some people may think that all children’s content is cheesy or boring, like repetitive nursery rhymes that you can’t get out of your head, but that’s not always true. I always watch an episode of a new show before I let my kids watch it. If I liked the soundtrack and laughed (or cried), I will introduce the show to my kids. I love “Bluey” for its ability to engage and entertain my young children while also making me and my husband laugh.
While there are many schools of thought on what is an appropriate amount of screen time, my experience as a mother and professional storyteller has shaped my perspective that the quality of content is of far greater importance. I hope my “screen test” can help other parents discover content they feel comfortable playing for their children.
Tricia Biggio is Co-Founder and CEO of invisible universe. She spent more than 15 years as a television producer and entertainment executive. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her two children.