How To

How To: Find a balance for kids’ screentime

How much screen time is too much for our kids? It’s a question that is important to consider, as we have been through a pandemic period where most of us spent more time on screens for work, study, fun and social interaction than ever before.

Experts in health, child development and parenting all have views on this issue, but it seems there is no clear answer that applies to all children in all families.

What is clear, though, it that it is important for families to work together to set boundaries on screen use in the home.

Families should set their own rules but there some guidelines to use as a starting point.

The Telethon Kids Institute advises that young children should not have access to screen devices in their bedrooms and that all screen use should end an hour before bedtime.

They also suggest that any rules imposed should help show children how to prioritise things for themselves. On a school day this could mean no access to screen time until chores or homework is done.

It’s also important to set a good example, so parents should limit their own screen use when the kids are around – and even when they’re not.

Use tech tools to manage the kids’ digital access, such as Google Family Link, Apple Screen Time controls and family-friendly wifi routers and filters.

It is important to get the balance right. Kids often need to use screens for schoolwork, and there is nothing inherently wrong with using phones or computers for fun and recreation as well. Look for games, apps and console games that encourage them to be active – and join the fun with your kids.

Communication and supervision are the keys to finding a healthy level of screen use, as well as keeping kids on the right track with the type of material they get access to. Have conversations with your kids about privacy and security online as well as how to behave when interacting with others.

Discussing alternatives to screen time, such as outdoor play, creative activities and organised sport, is also part of the conversation families need to have.

Thanks to Nature Play WA for some of the material in this article. This WA-based group advocates for children to spend more time on active play outdoors, and has a three-step approach for managing screen time based on the concept of Reduce, Replace, Balance.

For more information and tips on digital wellbeing, check out the Nature Play website here.