This piece originally featured in issue 6 of Digital Parenting magazine.

You can feel good about setting boundaries if you remember to ask yourself, ‘Am I being reasonable?’ Are the important safety boundaries flexible and age-appropriate? Are they vastly different to their friends’? Are they important for their wellbeing?


4-7: Curious explorers

Children at this age are starting to become curious about the world around them. It’s important to allow them some freedom to explore online but also to do it more safely. Apps like YouTube Kids may give filtered access to social media – but some inappropriate content can occasionally slip through the net, so keep an eye on what they’re viewing. Games for older children might be starting to appeal (e.g. those rated PEGI 12) but be aware that some might contain violent content and in-game chat functions.

Sleep: NHS recommends 10½-11½ hours a night | Content: PEGI 7; BBFC U, PG, 12A | Screen time: Maximum 1hr a day


8-12: Becoming independent

Children are likely to have a growing interest in social media, through friends and role models. Many social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have age 13+ restrictions, but this will not stop your kids from being interested in using them. Show an active interest in the platforms they are talking about, whether that’s discussing how sharing selfies makes them feel or the realism of images they see online. Their moods can be affected by social media, so it’s better to be involved and help them explore in a safer way.

Sleep: NHS recommends 9¼-10 ¼ hours a night | Content: PEGI 12, BBFC 12A, 12 | Screen time: From 1hr, progressing to 1.5hrs a day, as they get older


13-15: Taking risks

Teens become self-conscious about their use of the internet and social media to express and explore their interests. It’s likely they’ll be curious and search for sites and topics you might not think they’re ready for. Help them be aware of, and critical about, what they may come across online. Being able to understand potential risks – such as extremist, violent or pornographic content – can help them to assess the dangers and make better decisions about what is suitable for them.

Sleep: NHS recommends 9-9¼ hours a night | Content: PEGI 16; BBFC 12, 15 | Screen time: 1.5hrs per day weekdays, 2hrs weekends can be beneficial for this age range


Top tips

  • Find out what rules their friends’ parents are setting and discuss with them.

  • As the rule-maker, be clear, firm and consistent.

  • Set the rules with your child to help them understand why they’re needed.

  • Help younger children understand why certain rules do not apply to older ones.

  • You set the example, so think about your own screen time and what you’re sharing on social media too.


Did you know?

A 2017 report into the effects of screen time for 15-year-olds by the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford found that a ‘moderate’ amount of screen time (1.5 hours gaming, up to 2 hours on mobile devices, on weekdays) can have a more positive than negative effect. Anything above this can have an increasingly negative effect.


This article was originally written in partnership with Parent Zone