No one cares more about children’s well-being and success than their parents. In today’s digitally fueled times, that means guiding children not just in the real world but in the always-on virtual one as well. Teaching children to use technology healthily and pick up the skills and habits that will make them successful digital citizens is a task in itself.
We have got phones in our pockets, iPads on bedside tables, computers at work, TV and movies available whenever and wherever we want it. With so many digital diversions, it’s no wonder that the amount of time both kids and parents spend on screens is eating up a larger and larger share of our days.
Screen time and children
Screen time can best be described as what your child does when they are using devices or when they are watching television, playing a game, connecting with family or exploring online. Good screen practices for young children centre on the quality and nature of their activity online, as well as parents modelling good screen habits.
Even though we all know that too much screen time is bad for our mental, physical, and emotional health, the reality is that most families today struggle to keep screen time in check. Yet, finding a healthy balance may be easier than you think.
Below are some tips parents can use to model good screen practices for their children
1. Get involved and talk about the online world
We often use screen time to occupy and entertain our children while we get on with our busy lives but it is also important to use devices and screens as a way to start conversations with your children, to help build their understanding of the online world.
Getting into the habit of talking also means that, as your child grows older, they know they can always come to you if they have a question or experience something negative online, such as seeing content that is not age appropriate.
2. Talk about online safety
It is widely understood that to see a purpose for online safety, you must understand the concept first. Children are building their understanding of this concept. While they may not yet understand the Internet or data sharing, you can lay the foundations for online safety by talking about how devices and people ‘talk’ to one another online.
Starting early with conversations about how the Internet works and online safety encourages children to think critically about how data is stored, who can contact them online and how online sharing might affect them.
3. Talk about what you do online
If you pick up your phone to send a text, post an update on social media or use a map to search for an address, take the opportunity to explain to your child what you are doing. Let them ask questions and talk about what you are doing and why.
4. Connect with your child through screen time
Watching or playing alongside your child can be a positive experience that promotes learning and development. Ask questions, be curious and follow your child’s interests and at the same time, you can gently introduce online safety tips to them, such as not clicking on pop-ups or talking with someone outside their family and close friends online.
5. Carve out some device-free time
It’s important to create some device-free times and zones in your home to help your child learn how to balance their activities. To demonstrate that you can put your phone down and concentrate on spending time with your child, without the distractions of being online.
Do you know how long you spend on social media or email each day? If not, it’s a good idea to find out. Apple and Android devices have settings that allow you to monitor how much time you spend online. There are also Apps you can use to monitor your and your children’s online activity.
Stay tuned for next week’s Blog to learn more about the parental control settings on Apple and Android devices where you can filter what your child sees, monitor the time your child spends online and other safety tools on devices that connect to the Internet. This will allow you to manage your child’s screen time to maintain a healthy balance between being online and doing activities offline with siblings and family.
“Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.” -Regina Brett