Not a day goes by without parents getting bombarded by new and scary reports about all the horrible things kids are doing to themselves by spending too much time on their screens. Parents are regularly told that too much screen time can make kids apathetic, depressed, lazy, or unimaginative.
But perhaps the situation is not so dire after all. Research shows that it’s not how many hours kids spend on their screens that matters, but rather what they do when they’re on their devices. “How children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them,” say the authors of a recent study, “is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction.”
How do parents know whether their kids are harming or helping themselves online? Researchers note that sitting for hours at time scrolling mindlessly through their social media feeds is really bad for kids, a fact that parents well know. However, playing electronic games that either stimulate them physically or mentally can in fact be really good for kids.
Here are three of the most popular games that can stimulate your kids physically or cognitively. They’re fun and can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, and the best part is that they’re completely free.
NFL Play 60
If your kids love sports, especially football but it’s hard to get them to do any actual exercise, NFL Play 60 is the right game for them. Created by the NFL in collaboration with the American Heart Association the game lets kids pretend that they’re professional football players. Instead of simply making their on-screen avatars run and jump, they have to get off the couch and actually run, jump, catch and turn to make their avatars move.
Sworkit Kids is a great exercise and fitness game. Unlike NFL Play 60, it doesn’t focus on one particular sport and set of movements. The goal is to improve strength, agility, flexibility, and balance by viewing and doing more than 200 exercises that have video tutorials by other kids. The game also lets kids create their own, individualized exercises.
Story Dice Story Telling
A game that challenges your kids cognitively and gets their creative juices flowing is Story Dice – Story Telling. This game features 40 virtual dice, each with six different images in different categories, for a total of 240 very different images. Kids shake their devices to roll the dice and create stories that connect all the images that emerge. Encourage your kids to use this game together with their friends to see who comes up with the most suspenseful or fun stories and, for added learning, encourage them to write down their stories.
You can finds these Apps at the Apple Appstore and Google Play.
By Tanni Haas, Ph.D. a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.