How much screen time is too much screen time? There is no settled view on this. More research is needed but, in part, it seems pretty clear the answer will depend on what is on the screen. The main concerns arise in relation to the extent of non-educational usage, so a good place to start is a conversation about screen time when doing school work. If children are doing well at school, getting sufficient sleep and exercise, and have healthy non-screen based social lives maybe there isn’t a problem and the child is regulating their own usage.
Generally children and young people cannot be expected to self-regulate until at least the age of 16 or 17. Some limits on screen time are therefore essential to ensure a healthy balanced lifestyle. SafeToNet helps parents manage the time their children spend on apps and can restrict the device in the “timetable” feature. This is useful when the child screen time usage needs restricting.
What can parents do?
- Parents must decide, according to their own values, how much is too much.
- Put in place some limits and family rules. Rules should be worked out and agreed with input from all concerned, in the context of a discussion about family values. At the very least screens should be turned off an hour before bedtime and devices kept out of bedrooms.
- Most importantly, parents should model the restraint they wish to see.
- Encourage children to exercise and get involved in activities that are not screen-based.
- Monitor what children are seeing.
- Share in children’s online experience by showing an interest in the apps and sites they explore.
- Understand and discuss the risks of social media.
- Seek support. Download SafeToNet which can be used to limit the time children spend on mobile screens. Advice is also available online. Try the NSPCC at http://nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/.