Winter can be tough – the weather is fickle, and kids can be stuck inside for days, growing bored and restless. When the budget for paid entertainment runs low (and the parental patience runs thin), it can be tempting to stick them in front of the tablet or smartphone and let them whittle away a few hours online while you regain your sanity.
If you’re looking for constructive ways to keep them entertained, video production is a great activity that can get the whole family involved. Video is a great outlet for kids’ natural creativity that can foster their imagination, build their digital skills, and harness their energy into something productive. Plus, it’s a chance to spend some quality time together working on something fun!
For those concerned about screen time, the reality is that children are growing up in a digital world and it’s challenging to eliminate electronics altogether. That’s why balanced screen time is important, and with so many options at your fingertips – literally – there’s plenty to help maintain that harmony.
“Not all screen time is created equal”
You may have heard the above statement thrown around before. Screen time can be a point of contention and is a hot topic for parents in today’s digital world. How much is too much? Netsafe acknowledges that recommendations and guidelines vary based on a range of factors, but it’s important to note that there are two types of screen time: passive and active.
- Passive screen time is defined as time spent in front of a screen that requires no thought, activity, or creativity to process; for example, watching a video.
- Active screen time calls for some form of engagement, either cognitive and/or physical; for example, playing a video game.
Studies have indicated that too much passive screen time can lead to negative reactions in children, such as aggressive behaviour, social isolation, laziness, or mood swings. But when used constructively, active screen time can result in positive outcomes, including increased cognitive development and/or more physical activity.
Video is a fun, common form of communication online, which is partly why kids voraciously consume streaming content. Creating, producing, and sharing their own videos (instead of passively watching others) is a great way to encourage active screen time that will give their minds – and bodies – a stretch.
Lights, Camera, Action!
With so many options available, choosing a kid-friendly video creation app, program, or platform can be difficult. Common Sense Media is a useful resource that allows you to search apps using filters including age range, device compatibility, and cost. It also includes overviews of apps and particular things to note, as well as reviews from parents and children.
Below are some popular video creation apps as reviewed by Common Sense Media that may be suitable for teenagers and older children or younger children while under supervision:
- Lomotif – Music Video Editor
- Funimate – Be Music Video Star
- MoShow – Photo Slideshow Maker
- Magisto – Smart Video Editor
If you’re concerned about the public forum aspect for younger children and don’t want to constantly monitor their use, there are plenty of closed platforms that allow them to flex their creativity without risk of exposure to external content. In these apps, everything is contained in-app so children can’t search or watch public content. Some options as reviewed by Common Sense Media are:
- Toontastic 3D
- Lipa Theater: Story Maker
- GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine
- Sago Mini Doodlecast
Most apps allow you to save, download, and share your creations via email or on popular social networks (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram), so parents can have more control over when and where their child is posting their content.
Creating a group chat or shared album is a great way to share your creations directly with friends or family. This is especially useful for those with long-distance friends and family to keep in touch and stay connected without the risks of using a public platform.
For the Safety-Conscious: Things to Consider
As with any digital platform, there are always things to think about before diving in.
When it comes to videos and children online, there’s a lot to be aware of as a parent. Public platforms (like YouTube) are open forums, and allow anyone to create, upload, and share their own videos as well as search for and watch content uploaded by others. While they do their best to filter and flag inappropriate content, they’re not foolproof, and children still risk being exposed to materials that get past the controls.
However, you can take an active role in the way your child is using apps like these and thereby have more control over what they are exposed to. This includes options like putting age restrictions in place, setting up the app and account on your own device, and only allowing your child to use the app while under your supervision.
Take note that in some cases, bypassing the age restrictions is as simple as entering a valid birthdate, so if you’re concerned, the best approach may be monitoring your child’s exposure by only allowing them to use it with you. This has the additional benefit of creating opportunity for quality time.
If concerned, parents should be vigilant and do their research before allowing children to download or use any app. The social aspect of producing and sharing videos online also affords a good opportunity to discuss some important rules, etiquette, and things for your children to be aware of in the digital space:
Awareness and impact
- If children want to be on camera, make sure they’re comfortable with being filmed.
- When sharing videos, talk to them about the importance of being a good role model for others who may watch their videos.
the reality of cyberbullies and trolls.
- Consider disabling or monitoring the comments section to avoid negative interactions.
Privacy and safety
whether the accounts should be set to private.
- Do you want them unable to share and search content, to only share or search content with friends, or to share and search publicly?
- Consider whether the account should be parent-moderated or only used under supervision.
- Ensure your children don’t share any personal details such as their full name, address, or phone number.
your children choose a topic they like and are enthusiastic about.
- Consider age-appropriateness.
- Look at trending video types for inspiration; i.e. unboxing/toy reviews, challenges, how-to, sports skills, skits, etc.
or be aware of public content they may be searching or watching.
- Avoid use of headphones so you can pick up on anything that may be inappropriate.
And most importantly, get those creative juices flowing and have fun!