Screen time is a hot topic but nobody fully understands the harm it may be doing to the generation growing up in the digital age. What we do know is that technology and the internet have added a whole new dimension to parenting. Under two-year-olds should have no screen time, while under fours should be limited to an hour a day, according to NHS guidelines. Beyond four years and experts begin to disagree and it all becomes very vague. Our children are digital natives and know instinctively how to use a phone or tablet without necessarily being taught. It’s impossible to cut them off from the digital world, hearkening back to the one in which we grew up, so parents must take control and help children navigate their lives online, as well as offline.
When does screen-time become a problem?
As adults, it’s now becoming hard to believe we lived without our laptops, Kindles, and iPads, as they’ve become such an integral part of our daily life. So we must appreciate that children want to reap the similar educational benefits and entertainment values that we do. Screen time becomes a problem — and a sign of addiction — when your child is angry, anxious or irritable when they’re not allowed to be online or playing on the computer. If you’re having more and more arguments with your child around technology, you’ll know it’s time to intervene.
Should I limit my child’s screen-time?
Experts will recommend limiting screen time simply because we don’t fully understand the effects on that digital devices are having on child development. Emerging evidence has suggested that too much screen time can lead to addict and loop round to the anger and anxiety issues mentioned above. Another concern is that the ‘iPad generation’ aren’t as active, which leads to health problems, because they’re spending more time indoors glued to their screens.
Children need to learn through imaginative play and engaging with the real world, rather than being constantly engaged with screens. Although on the flip side, studies have shown video games improve concentration and cognitive ability.
It’s up to you as a parent whether you limit your child’s time spent looking at a screen but we at least recommend it as a cautionary measure.
How do I limit my child’s screen-time?
Start a discussion with your child. Children are always more receptive to limitations if they understand the reasoning behind them. Let your child know you’re looking out for their digital wellbeing.
Don’t ban everything, just impose limits. An outright ban of mobile phones is going to leave everyone angry and frustrated, especially if your child sees you on your iPhone when they’re not allowed access themselves. Explain that this isn’t a flat-out ban but rather an opportunity to spend time together and get creative or go outside. Suggestion: no devices at the dinner table.
Accept that the iPad is useful. Often children will need to refer to resources on the internet for homework. Technology and games can also facilitate spending time and bonding with your children.
Don’t buy a personal one. Have a family computer or tablet. As much as they’ll moan that they need an iPhone, they don’t.
Download a parental control app. Many apps help you have you more control over your child’s internet use through content filtering, games blocking, setting a time limit on screen time, social media monitoring and limiting internet connection.
Why should I supervise what my child looks at online?
If you’re looking for peace of mind, yes. If you could have prevented harm coming to your child, you would have and that’s an approach you can apply to online safety.
Don’t forget that you’re in charge. Remind yourself that you’re doing it for their own safety. You’re within your right to impose limits on internet usage and protect them against inappropriate or harmful online content.
Identify and protect them against online predators. Not everyone online is who they say they are and kids might not necessarily have the best radar for detecting whether they’re talking to who they say they are.
Know immediately if your child is being bullied online. Cyberbullying can have dangerous consequences. The sooner you’re able to intervene the better.
Know what your child is sharing online or through messaging apps. Whether it’s sexting or sharing personal information that you would rather keep private or you know it’s a photo that they’ll regret putting on the internet in a few years time, supervision will prevent this happening.
Finally, if your child isn’t old enough to go out by themselves unsupervised, should they really be allowed to access anything and everything out there on the internet?
How do I supervise online activity?
While your child isn’t going to approve of you looking over their shoulder and that’s near-on impossible if you have chores and work to do, a good option is to download a parental control app.
It’s never been easier to supervise what your kids are doing online. Software such as Qustodio allows you to manage and protect your child’s tablet or phone from a distance. Qustodio parental control gives you effective time management over your family’s screen use, such as having devices switch off a couple of hours before bed. You can filter harmful content, picking and choosing what to block, to ensure safe browsing and online security. And keep track of everyone’s devices (even their geolocation!) from an online dashboard. Qustodio is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS and Kindle. Prices start from £32.36 a year, and this will protect up to five devices.
Find out more on Qustodio.com
Use discount code MYBABA10 to get 10% off your Qustodio Family Plan. Offer expires 31st December 2019.