My kids love their screens whether its watching TV, movies, gaming or my phone. I joke that they are ‘screen mozzies’ who can spot any screen and get themselves to it like those annoying insects find a BBQ.
Research is starting to show that the effects of too much screen time on the developing brain are not good at all with links to attention and learning issues, mental illness and more.
Sixty-five per cent of parents surveyed do not think they’re good role models when it comes to device usage
This week I spoke with Telstra’s Cyber Safety Manager, Shelly Gorr about this issue facing Aussie families. Their recent research showed that parents example (not what they say) is a huge factor in the expectations and behaviour of the children in the family. That seems pretty obvious but the fact is that while many parents tell their kids that they have to have limited screen-time, the adults themselves are actually in front of the computer, mobile or TV much more.
Some interesting findings were:
- 65% of parents say they’re not good technology role models
- 71% of children use their device in front of the television
- 19 % of children use their device at meal times
So how do you manage your kid’s screen-time?
The best approach to planning how your family works is to sit down and discuss the issues, gather ides and then agree on a family plan. Remember that part of the plan is how to deal with extreme situations (work, school deadlines) and what happens when someone needs a reminder.
If you are reducing your kid’s screen-time be sure to also discuss some alternative activities to fill in that extra time.
TOP TIPS TO HELP BALANCE CHILDREN’S SCREEN TIME
- Agree limits
Talk to your children about the amount of digital time they’re living and then, based on what you agree is a healthy balance, set ‘switched off’ times of day. Help your children create a media use roster allocating blocks of time for homework, chores and their screen time.
- Be an offline supporter
Support and encourage your kids in activities that don’t involve a digital device. A ball game or reading a book are all great ways to show kids how they can enjoy themselves without a mobile, tablet or computer.
- Set family rules
Make sure you’re seen as a positive example. Do you want the dinner table to be a device-free zone? If so, then have everyone (including Mum and Dad) turn off their mobile phones and devices during dinner, or when taking part in family activities. Children are happier following rules if everyone in the family plays by them.
- Turn off devices before bedtime
Lack of sleep can affect alertness, concentration and memory. For a better night’s sleep try encouraging children to switch off at least one hour before bedtime. Create a charging station and charge all household devices in the one spot overnight.
- Make the most of parental controls
Many parental controls tools allow you to set time-of-day restrictions on children’s device usage. We recommend Telstra Smart Controls® for mobile devices and Telstra Online Security for your home network.
- Consider the difference between types of screen time
Not all screen time is created equal. Think about the differences between using a device for homework or creative expression versus using it for passive entertainment.
Model What You Want to See
Parents won’t usually have the same limits as children but we need to model the same discipline to stick to our agreement and if we mess up, then we need to give ourselves consequences to model to the family.
Do you have other ideas to share? Leave a comment below.