Brno Family: What Does ‘Screen Time’ Mean for Coronavirus Kids?
The “Pinkcredible Story Maker” app on pbskids.org is a great way to let your kids use screen time in a positive and creative way. Photo Credit: Pinkalicious.
Not long ago, there were people who believed that excessive “screen
time” was as bad for the brain as smoking was for the lungs.
Now, by dint of
being forced inside as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic,
our lives have become reliant upon the internet in ways that will
probably never be reversed. Just look at a quick sampling of
newspaper headlines since the start of the quarantine period:
time was a much-debated topic that has, quickly, become quaint.
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Many parents have
struggled with balancing screen time for their kids. Clearly, the
more traditional types of play (e.g., building Lego houses, dressing
dolls, kicking a ball) seem more natural and beneficial, while the
technology-driven forms (e.g., watching YouTube videos, making finger
movements to maneuver through an educational app) can look
unnecessarily adult, especially with the kid’s little head bent
forward and their focus so intently on a screen.
Yet, necessity is
the mother of invention — or, at least, having a kids bouncing off
the walls is what prompts the father into the laziness of just giving
them his mobile phone. Being locked inside has relaxed many
At least there are a
lot of safe and educational videos and apps from which children can
benefit. Here are some — all of which are free — that I have
found to be useful:
• Little Baby
Bum. In many ways, training our kids to use the toilet was based
upon the reward of watching “Little Baby Bum” on YouTube.com. The
clips have friendly animated creatures who sing songs and act out
nursery rhymes. There are many clips focused on learning numbers,
shapes and colors. (However, be careful: “Little Baby Bum” may
prove so popular that it may lead to prolonged periods of a kid
sitting on the baby potty in the middle of the kitchen supposedly
trying to squeeze one out but really just watching the videos.)
• GoNoodle. If you need your kids to move around in order to use up some energy, try this website: https://family.gonoodle.com/ As soon as I turned on these videos, my kids started dancing and jumping and trying to follow along with the on-screen performers. There is also a game-oriented page that make exercise more fun.
Street, Peppa Pig, Masha and the Bear. YouTube is
chock full of animated videos that are just a search word away. They
are a perfect quick fix for when you get a surprise conference call.
Just make sure to keep an eye on the queue, lest the subsequent
videos turn strange: there is a lot of spiderman-themed weirdness out
there and the algorithm always seems to lead to Russian-language
Websites and Apps
• Khan Kids. I
am huge proponent of Khan Academy. I think it is the model for the
future of education — i.e., online lectures at home and personal
support at school — and I have personally spent many hours watching
its videos to refresh my math knowledge and reinforce my biology
background. The kids application is great. There are many
simple-to-use games that add tools that will help them in the future.
Council — Learning Time with Timmy. We are currently starting
to teach my daughter to read. We point out words and slowly add new
ones. On her own, she has started to copy the words from a book into
her notebook. Having another outlet, like “Timmy’s First Words in
English”, helps to provide another perspective.
• Pbskids.org. A lot of great games are available from the Public Broadcasting System of the United States. The “Pinkcredible Story Maker” has been a recent favorite. The user creates a three-panel story. Each scene requires a setting, characters and props. My daughter designs the set and then uses it to tell us the story. Click here to see it. (Note: This is also great for anyone with writers block as they create their entry for the fourth annual Brno Short Story Writers Contest!)
• PBS Kids Play
& Learn Science. One of my favorite places in Brno is the
Open Gardens at 33 Údolní Street because it has a large
installation for learning about water. Kids pump the water at the top
of the hill, adjust obstacles along the way and watch the flow. This
same thing exists on the PBS Kids Play & Learn Science app (and
the kid doesn’t get wet). Plus, the app’s temperature game is
great: the animated scene changes according to the temperature you
* * *
There are definitely
many more child-friendly apps that I have not yet tried. What are
your favorite apps for kids? Do you worry about too much screen time?
What are your strategies for limiting your kids’ exposure to
screens? Do you believe that excessive screen time is as bad for your
brain as smoking is for your lungs? Please share.