Are there any media benefits for children and teenagers? Yes! Television, movies, computer games and the internet can be a positive influence on your child, especially if you get involved when your child is using them and help your child make good choices.
Media benefits and child development
There are many negative messages about media, and how viewing and interacting with it might harm children.
But children can also benefit from media. The benefits depend on how old children are, and what kind and quality of media they’re using.
If your child is aged under two years, using media with an adult can help keep him connected with people he loves – for example, a travelling parent. But if your child is aged under 18 months, he should use media only for video-chatting. If he’s aged 18 months to 2 years, he should use media only when you or another adult can use it with him.
Older children and teenagers
If your child is older, carefully chosen TV programmes, movies, apps and computer games can offer many developmental and social benefits. These can have more value through middle and later childhood. Also, social media can have social benefits for teenagers.
How media can benefit children
Younger children can get developmental benefits from using media. These benefits include:
For older children, the developmental benefits of media include:
For teenagers the benefits of media include opportunities to develop or explore:
Children can be media creators, not just consumers. Making their own movies, taking photographs, and creating online content can help them develop critical thinking, social, technical and artistic skills. This can also make them aware that their opinions and decisions matter.
Helping your child get media benefits
You can help your child get media benefits by being involved with your child and her use of media – for example, you can visit quality websites together, encourage your child to use educational software, and watch TV shows that offer extra learning opportunities.
When you’re watching TV and movies together, try discussing how the plot works, how your child feels about what’s happening, and what would happen in real life if you behaved badly or illegally.
You can also talk about how the people are actors, and how special effects make things seem to happen.
News programs can upset or worry children. You might choose not to share news programs with children under 8 years. For children aged 9-12 years, it’s a good idea to watch news together so you can talk to your child about news that he might find disturbing.
Deciding what media is ‘good’
Deciding whether a TV program, movie, computer game, app or website is good quality can be tricky.
You can find out about classifications at the Info-communications Media Development Authority's (IMDA) website. And you can use online reviews to help you decide whether a movie, app or game is high quality and whether it has educational benefits.
Other parents and your child’s teachers can also be a useful source of information about quality media that’s good for children.
Content with a good story that doesn’t depend on violence for its entertainment value is always worth looking for.
You can also look for TV programs and movies that give your child the chance to find out about new things like places, animals, people, ideas, issues and cultures she couldn’t see or connect with otherwise. These can inspire her to try new activities and think about new ideas. This can be done through playing, creating something or finding out more about a topic.
Movies or TV programs with good role models can also positively influence your child. Good role models are people or characters who are doing things or behaving in ways that you wouldn’t mind your child copying, or that you’d like your child to copy.
Some movies and TV programs can expose your child to diversity, especially ethnic diversity, which is a good thing.
Software, apps and websites that get children drawing pictures or making up stories or rhymes can foster creativity. For preschoolers especially, this can also be a way for them to express ideas and feelings.
Computer games that give young children simple choices – choosing a character or finding a background for a picture – can also help your child make creative decisions. The more interactive computer games and websites are, the better they’ll be at helping your child learn more effectively.
Avatars and games can give older children and teenagers the opportunity to develop identity and empathy by letting them ‘try on’ different physical and psychological characteristics.
Screen time is the time you spend on screen-based activities each day. Current guidelines recommend limiting children’s screen time and making sure it doesn’t take the place of enough sleep and other activities like physically active play, creative play and socialising.
Video: Using technology
In this video, parents and their child talk about the different ways they use technology, and the family rules regarding usage of such devices.