Should you encourage your high learning potential (HLP) youngster to use meaningful apps – or to put down their gadgets? The latest research is contradictory but seems to agree that time spent on screens should be balanced out by time being physically active, playing and socialising.
We look at apps and best practice to encourage physical and mental health in children and young people.
Screen Use Guidelines
- Upper time limits are disputed by professionals, but broadly range from no use, to 3 hours, to using parental/teacher discretion.
- Consider your child’s age and circumstances alongside respected sources, such as:
- Screen Time and the Gifted Student; Balance and Quality are Key – National Association of Gifted Children https://www.nsgt.org/screen-time-gifted-student/
- The Health Impacts of Screen Time: a guide for clinicians and parents – Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, (RCPCH), online https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/health-impacts-screen-time-guide-clinicians-parents and their accompanying downloadable guide https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-12/rcpch_screen_time_guide_-_final.pdf.
- Screen Time: Facts for Parents – Association of Optometrists https://www.aop.org.uk/advice-and-support/for-patients/childrens-eye-health/screen-time-for-kids-facts-for-parents.
- Enable screen time limits using Microsoft Windows 10 and Xbox help https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/4028244/microsoft-account-set-up-screen-time-limits-for-your-child or Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod touch support https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT208982.
Find a Healthy Balance
- 5–18 year olds should also “aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day” including cardio and muscle-building, NHS guidelines https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-children-and-young-people/.
- WHO, the World Health Organization, has concluded “quality sedentary time spent in interactive non-screen-based activities with a caregiver, such as reading, storytelling, singing and puzzles, is very important for child development” https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-healthy-children-need-to-sit-less-and-play-more.
- Avoid eye strain with ‘20/20/20’; every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for 20 seconds at something at least 20 feet away, (RCPCH).
- Get great ideas from The Health Impacts of Screen Time: a fact sheet for parents (RCPCH) https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-12/rcpch_screen_time_parent_fact_sheet_-_final.pdf.
- Use ‘night settings’ to decrease the amount of visible blue light emitted by the screen as bedtime approaches https://www.aop.org.uk/advice-and-support/policy/position-statements/visible-blue-light.
- To aid sleep, turn off digital devices an hour before bedtime.
- Always check apps in advance for age ratings and any purchase costs.
- Use a reputable source such as: the Google Play store (Android or Windows phones and tablets); Apple’s App Store (iPhones and iPads); known retailers (e.g. Amazon); Microsoft Store (Windows 10); or directly from the game/developer’s website.
- Check privacy settings regularly to ensure: all gameplay, video creation, etc, is ‘private’ (isolated) not ‘public’; device and app ‘profanity’ filters are set appropriately; the profile picture shows an abstract image, not a sharp ‘selfie’.
- Protect software use and home/educational internet with appropriate ‘parental settings’ and additional monitoring software (such as Qustodio).
- Discuss views and agree boundaries for gadgets, maybe using this infographic: https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-12/rcpch_screen_time_full_cyp_views.pdf.
HLP-Friendly Apps and Screen Use
- Build on individual interests with high-quality apps that explore these and add challenge; for example, a themed game, study course or collaborative project.
- Avoid ‘fighting’ games. According to studies, gifted players can be more sensitive to screen violence https://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/01/health/gifted-children-violence/index.html, so keep screen time beneficial: Positive Screen Time for Children; https://www.theschoolrun.com/positive-screen-time.
- Audio-only content allows vision breaks and opportunities for multi-tasking or physical activity while audio streaming.
- Welcome a ‘new-tech’ approach to reading. See Screens and Reading Superheroes; Embracing New Formats with High Learning Potential Readers
- Choose apps you can extend with non-screen activities.
- Games that also work offline can be convenient and also protect against online dangers (even HLP teens sometimes want to cut off from peer group pressures – or to privately play a game aimed at a younger audience, possibly due to their ‘asynchronous development’).
Favourite HLP Games
Scratch Jr (5-7) / Scratch (8-16)
With Scratch Jr, http://www.scratchjr.org/, young children begin to program their own interactive stories and games using graphics. Extendable with an official Scratch Jr Book and 75 Coding Cards, simple coding blends into a programming language and the full ‘Scratch’ environment https://scratch.mit.edu/ for more experienced users keen to ‘share’ with a wider community.
Animal Jam from National Geographic (3+, recommended 4-12+)
User names protect the identities of ‘A.J.’ gamers as they explore the lands and oceans of Jamaa www.animaljam.com. Going at their own speed, players build a home, make friends, trade goods and opt into fun missions. As they travel, they learn wildlife facts, earn gems that donate funds to real-life wildlife conservation and visit National Geographic’s mini cinemas and museums.
A genuinely friendly environment, as responsible adult, you oversee the Animal Jam account and set appropriate chat levels https://help.animaljam.com/hc/en-us/articles/202832200.
Other HLP App Options
In the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, search for terms such as ‘educational’ (and then select an age range), ‘puzzles’, ‘word games’ or ‘brain teasers’.
Tailor choices to your high potential learner’s interests. For example, search for ‘language’, ‘geography’ or ‘stars’ to find suitable apps like Duolingo, Babbel, Wordscapes, Words With Friends (1 or 2 players), StudyGe or Star Tracker.
Sleep Sounds, Doodle Master – Glow Art, Yoga for Kids and Rootd – Panic Attack and Anxiety Relief are all examples of apps that help youngsters to think positively and cope in stressful times.
Not forgetting the HLP favourite, Minecraft, which is available in both ‘Pocket’ and ‘Educational’ Editions, (occasionally free to download).
HLPs on Social Media
Social media has mixed reviews but can beneficially link high potential learners who are home educated or who have friendship groups outside of school. Monitor for unwelcome contacts and set time limits if usage becomes excessive.
These days you can send and receive photos, videos, voice or video calls with most social media; features that once made Facetime, Skype and even Facebook ‘essential’ for tweens and teens.
Social Media Overviews for Other HLPs
Hear the opinions of a Potential Plus UK teen member!
“Snapchat (12+) is a messaging and photo-sharing platform. You have to choose who to accept to ‘add’, which makes it harder for strangers to randomly be in contact.
Each ‘Snap’ disappears within a few seconds and can’t be found again. Snapmaps can identify where you are, so I always switch on ‘ghost mode’.
In-app mini-games are free but not very challenging – the best is Alphabear Hustle, a word game.”
“Instagram (12+) is mainly for sharing photos and commenting on them. You can ‘follow’ friends or even famous authors, singers, etc. – Message and they might even message back! Since you simply look up someone’s name to find them, I’d choose a private account (for friends only) rather than a public one.
If you love doing something like art, video-making or writing, you can show off your talents by posting lots of examples on your profile page.”
“WhatsApp (12+) is more like texting, but it’s good for making family groups. I use it to share media with my Potential Plus UK friend who is home educated.”
“TikTok (13+) is kind of an app and social media. It’s for creating and posting your own short videos where you’ve used music, comedy, drama or other TikTok ‘sounds’ made by other people – and then you lip-sync, dance, act, etc, to them. It can be hilarious! (Often inappropriate words slip through, so TikTok watch the settings!)
TikTok helps spark your public speaking and drama skills. Otherwise you can make and ‘tag’ your own videos about maths or any favourite curriculum subject – or spread social awareness about something important.”
About the author: Gillie Ithell is a writer and editor for Potential Plus UK with a B.A. degree in Modern Languages & Communication. Having worked internationally as content manager of classic board games and ‘edutainment’ software, Gillie now writes to inspire others like herself; on a daily journey with High Learning Potential.