Healthy Screen Use for Our Kids Over the Holidays: Here’s How to Make It Happen

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As the holidays approach, be particularly careful not to use screen time as a reward for your kids.

This will diminish your children’s expectations that they’ll get to spend even more time with their electronic devices during the holiday break.

Instead, use the opportunity to spend a little time helping your kids develop positive screen communication habits.

Do this in a natural way — similar to reading books aloud to your children.

What do I mean by all of this?

The holidays give us a chance to create community around screens, to laugh, cuddle and comment while watching programs or movies together. One idea is to pick a few favorite family movies, then “prime” your kids before starting the films.

This way, you activate different parts of the brain — and your kids will anticipate talking about what they saw when the film ends.

Related: How to Raise a Thankful Child — Yes, It’s Possible

You can also help children to think critically while the movie is playing, simply by commenting and asking questions. Even doing this sotto voce will get whole-brain responses!

By helping kids learn to listen to you while they’re watching, you’re able to activate as many parts of the brain as they would use while reading.

It’s a fun (and sneaky) way to make them smarter while watching holiday films.

Let’s circle back for a moment and address the elephant in the screening room.

Does the idea of talking during a movie seem clumsy and counter-intuitive to you?

Perhaps you’ve worked hard to get your kids to be quiet while watching TV and live performances. You may even have artistic objections and feel that films should be experienced without discourse as a matter of respect.

These objections are appreciated — but I still say it’s important to talk about films during or after watching them with your kids.

You don’t have to do it every time, just some of the time.

Why do some of us feel such resistance to this idea?

Did reading books aloud to our children ruin our own love of reading novels or nonfiction? Probably not.

Related: ‘Grateful for My Kids’ Doesn’t Begin to Capture It

Did taking lively nature walks with our children ruin our ability to hike or walk alone and immerse ourselves in nature?

Doubtful.

Then why are we so peculiarly protective of our screen experiences, as if these alone should somehow remain sacrosanct and private?

Related: Gift of Gab at Holiday Time: Helping Our Kids for a Lifetime

Practicing screen talk with your children won’t ruin your (or their) ability to watch films quietly — or to absorb yourself (or themselves) in social media when the time is right.

It will, however, give kids a fantastic head start on healthy tech habits and critical thinking.

Nicole Dreiske is an educational innovator and children’s media expert who has worked with more than 500,000 children in her career. She is executive director of the International Children’s Media Center and author of “The Upside of Digital Devices: How to Make Your Child More Screen Smart(R), Literate and Emotionally Intelligent.”

The opinions expressed by contributors and/or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LifeZette.

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