opinion | Heather Hopp-Bruce

How best to prepare kids for the digital world

Let’s start a discussion between parents about screen time, one that doesn’t begin with guilt-inducing decrees, such as the two-hour daily limit proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Few families have the luxury of “protecting” their children from all screens, so why shame them or pretend otherwise? It’s time to seriously consider how to prepare our kids for a digital future instead of vilifying it.

A first step is to move the conversation away from how much screen time to what kind of screen time. What if we divided screen time into three categories: creative, interactive, and passive, then further divided our best content by skill-building, educational, and entertainment?

The graphic below is an attempt to do just that.

All of the examples highlighted are my own favorites. Are there other titles to add — or avoid? Do you have a story about how screen time has helped or hindered your child? How else should parents be getting their children ready for the digital world in which they live?

Join the discussion.


PASSIVE The child watches content in this category with no real input or interaction. It’s a godsend when parents need the break, but it’s sometimes hard not to over-rely on these easy tools. At least there are high-quality options.

INTERACTIVE This category requires real-time input from the child in order to participate. Most of the titles here are mobile apps. Many introduce skills and concepts that are expanded upon in the creative category, which is good for younger users.

CREATIVE Anything on-screen originated by the child falls here; it includes classic painting programs, also well as open-ended content geared toward coding, game design, engineering, and non-guided writing.

Join the discussion.

Heather Hopp-Bruce is the Globe’s op-ed design supervisor. Her illustrated parenting blog is thebabysucks.com; follow her on Twitter @H_HoppBruce.

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