Smartphones, tablets and computers are now very much part of our lives, and for our children there has never been a time when they have known a world without screens.
But no matter how much screen time our children may desire, managing it is an important job for us as parents and caregivers.
A recent report suggested using the Goldilocks method of ‘not too little, not too much but just the right amount’ is a great goal, but it’s never that easy is it?
The challenges of managing our children’s screen time is evidenced in the findings of the latest Ofcom Children and Parents: Media use and attitudes report 2018:
The viewing landscape is complex, with half of 5-15 year olds watching television services delivered over the internet, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV
TV sets and tablets dominate device use, but time spent watching TV on a TV set (broadcast or on demand) is decreasing
YouTube is becoming the viewing platform of choice, particularly among 8-11 year olds. Within this, vloggers are an increasingly important source of content and creativity
Online gaming is increasingly popular; three-quarters of 5-15 year olds who play games do so online
Social media can bring a combination of social pressures and positive influences
TV and social media are important sources of news, but many have concerns over the accuracy and trustworthiness of news on social media
A majority of online 12-15 year olds think critically about websites they visit, but only a third correctly understand search engine advertising
Children are still being exposed to unwanted experiences online, but almost all recall being taught how to use the internet safely
There has been an increase in parents of 12-15 year olds (and 12-15 year olds themselves) saying that controlling screen time has become harder; however, most 12-15 year olds consider they have a struck a good balance between doing this and other things
Parental concerns about the internet are rising, although in some areas parents are becoming less likely to moderate their child’s activities
The key takeaway is to manage what your children are doing online and worry less about how long they are online.
This of course is easier when children are younger, but once they get older it can become a real battle.
Best practice on managing children’s screen time:
Establishing good habits while they’re young will help shape their own decisions on what’s best for them in the long run, but it’s key to let your children know what is expected of them.
Start by explaining that their internet access is a privilege that shouldn't be abused and that it can and will be taken away at any moment
It is key to set a time management plan outlining when your children can use the internet and setting a curfew time is paramount
Let them know that although you trust them, you will still check regularly that they’re following the rules and that their online activity will be monitored
You can change the WIFI password so that they have to ‘earn’ it by doing chores and homework first
You can also consider using the many free parental control software apps that allow you to control what your children can access and when
The most important thing is to keep the line of communication with your children open; you don’t want them taking their online activity underground