The issue of screen time is one of the most hotly-debated in recent times, especially when it comes to young people and their digital lives. Here are six things that you need to know to guide your child in how and when they go online.
1. How much is too much screen time for children?
There’s no definitive amount of screen time that has been universally agreed as being ‘right’ for all children. But research into screen time and wellbeing has highlighted a ‘Goldilocks theory’ which suggests a certain level of tech use – not too much, not too little, around 1 to 2 hours a day – is ‘just right’ for teens. It also suggests that ‘moderate’ amounts of screen time can be beneficial, enhancing a young person’s creativity and communication skills. So the key take-away is that digital technology may have advantages for your child, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their schoolwork or other extracurricular activities.
2. The quality of screen time matters
We live in a world where ‘screen time’ is an increasingly vague concept. We use screens for work, education, socialising, to watch TV, to get around – they’re part of nearly everything we do. So rather than using a stopwatch to monitor screen time, consider how and what your child is doing online. Is it something new? Something creative or educational? Something that allows them to socialise in a positive way? Or simply something fun? If there are benefits for them, then the amount of time they spend doing it is less important.
3. It’s important to set boundaries and stick to them
Set boundaries that consider what your child is doing online. For example, setting a limit of one hour a night screen time, when they may need to be in front of a screen to do their homework and want some down-time chatting with friends online, may be unrealistic. Instead, it’s a good idea to set clear, reasonable boundaries that focus on encouraging positive screen use – and setting them with your child so that they understand the reasoning behind it.
4. Look for signs of screen time having a negative effect
Keep an eye on how your child’s screen time affects other areas of their life. For example, are they getting enough sleep? Are they doing OK with their school work? Are they able to interact socially with others? Talk to your child about what they’re doing online and get them to think about how it makes them feel when they spend time doing these things. They may come to the conclusion that staying up late gaming is making them tired the next day, or that constantly scrolling through social media is giving them FOMO (fear of missing out).
5. It can help to join in and get involved with your child’s screen time
Talk to your children about what they’re doing online and what they’re learning or struggling with, rather than telling them to stop spending time on their devices. It helps to encourage their interests and try to understand them yourself by asking questions, or even joining in with what they’re doing. If your child enjoys gaming and you want to spend more quality time together, you may decide to organise a family gaming night.
6. Screen time benefits vary for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
Digital media can provide great opportunities for children with special educational needs. It can help them get involved in activities, and certain applications allow them to participate in family life. But each child has their own needs and their screen time should be monitored carefully. For example, some children with autism may need clear boundaries because they find it hard to stop spending time in front of a screen - rather than developing interpersonal skills that come from socialising with friends and family.
Read here for more information on how to manage screen time for younger children. This article also provides more insight as to why suitable screen time is different for everyone, including those with special needs.
This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.