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Are some types of screen time better than others?

For sure. There's a huge difference between an hour spent shooting zombies in an app versus an hour spent composing music online.

That's not to say that everything has to be stamped "educational" to provide an enriching experience. With any screen media you choose for your kids (or they choose for themselves) -- movies, games, TV shows, apps -- you want to look for how it engages your child. There's nothing wrong with a little mindless entertainment. But your kids will get more out of their screen time if you consider these "four C's."

Connection.

It's really important that kids connect on a personal level with what they're watching, playing, or reading. Are they engaged? Engrossed? Maybe even enlightened? Getting into a storyline or identifying with characters prepares kids for more learning.

Critical thinking.

Look for TV shows, apps, games, and more that take a deep dive into a topic, subject, or skill. Maybe it's games in which kids think through ethical dilemmas or strategize about bypassing obstacles. Quizzes and simple Q&A-style games may be fun and seem educational, but they don't help kids find deep or long-lasting meaning.

Creativity.

Many great learning tools give kids the ability to create something new -- a new level for a video game or a song, for instance. Kids can feel more ownership of their learning when they get to put their own spins on the experience.

Context.

Help your kids understand how their online or screen-time activities fit into the larger world. For younger kids in particular, the discussions and activities surrounding games or movies are key. Being with kids while they play or watch, asking questions about what they're taking away, and doing related offline activities can extend learning.

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