There is a lot of conflicting advice and emerging research around screen time. But, the right amount of screen time can depend on a range of factors like your child’s age and maturity, the kind of content they are consuming, their learning needs and your family routine. It can be easy to focus only on the clock and how long your child is spending in front of the screen, but the quality and nature of what they are doing online, and your involvement are just as important.
Consider your child’s screen use in the context of their overall health and wellbeing – for example, is online time getting in the way of their sleep
and exercise? Is it impacting on their face-to-face connections with family and friends? The answers to these questions will guide you and help strikethe right balance of online and offline activities for your child.
1. Be involved
Sharing screen time and online activities like gaming with your child helps you gauge the appropriateness of what they are doing and manage potential risks. It’s also a great way to start conversations with your child about their online experiences.
2. Work with your child to set boundaries for screen use
If you decide that setting screen time limits is right for you and your child, discuss these new rules with your child. Older children are more likely to cooperate if they have been part of the decision- making process. Colourful pictures or charts of daily limits and other important activities is a fun way to get younger children on board.
3. Be clear about the consequences of not switching off
Part of our role as parents is to set clear limitations and boundaries. The same applies to technology limitations so, being clear and consistent about the consequences for your child if they do not stick to these rules is paramount. The Raising Children Network provides some useful tools and advice.
4. Set device-free zones and times at home
Device-free zones can help you manage your family’s digital use. Here are some ideas for setting digital boundaries within your home:
- no devices in the bedroom for younger children
- all screens off in bedrooms after a certain time for older children
- all screens off at least one hour before planned bedtime
- all family members switch off at dinner time
- charge devices overnight in a place your child cannot access5. Ask your child to explain their screen useGet your child in the habit of explaining why they want to be in front of a screen or online. It’s a great way to get them thinking about their own digital habits and balancing screen time withother activities.
6. Use tech tools to help manage access
There are robust products and device functions which allow you to see which apps are being used in your home and for how long. But try not to use these tools to secretly monitor your child. Instead, be open about the process and check the whole family’s usage, including your own. Start with Google Family Link for Android devices or parental controls and Screen Time for iPhone/iPad.
7. Lead by example
Your behaviour is one of the most effective ways to help your child develop a positive digital mindset. Show your child you can put down your device too.
For more information, visit the eSafetyCommissioner website at esafety.gov.au/parents