How much time should kids be allowed to spend online?
Screen time is really important to young people. After all, it’s a huge part of their social life. Just as kids of the 1970s and 80s would spend hours hogging the family landline, kids of today are spending that time chatting online.
But being a digi-savvy parent means having a chat about screen time, and setting a few expectations.
Things to discuss include:
- how long they’re allowed on the device, and when (eg after homework and jobs are done)
- what kind of websites they can visit
- which games they’re allowed to play
- and how much money they can spend on things like texts, calls, downloads and apps.
Work the rules out together, and you’ll have a better chance of everyone sticking to them. Consider putting a digital agreement in place when your child gets new a device.
Managing screen time: how much is too much?
Young people seem to be spending hours on the internet, their mobiles and games consoles. So it can be difficult to know what’s okay, and how much is too much.
There is no golden rule or magic formula – some experts say two hours a day should be the maximum, others say it depends on what your child is actually doing online.
If your child is doing well in school, playing sport or other online hobbies, has friends, and seems happy and healthy, you probably have the balance about right.
“”“For those that say boys can’t multitask, they have not seen my son use Facebook, text friends and watch TV all at the same time. I am very aware of the importance of limiting his screen time to bring balance to his life and to encourage other activities. I also have to be clear that TV and games on his phone are included in his allocated screen time, rather than on top of his screen time. We have drawn up an agreement which has been a really useful ally and it means that if he wants more screen time there is a process in place for him to earn that.” – Zane
Setting and enforcing time limits is never easy – especially when you add teenage emotions into the mix! But part of being a digi-parent is being able to enforce rules despite any negative reaction you might receive.
Here’s Dave from The Parenting Place with some tips to help manage screen time in your house.
7 simple ways to keep screen time in check:
- Pay attention to how much time your child spends online and what they are doing. Is it increasing rapidly or interfering with their offline life?
- Remember the rules apply to you too, Mum and Dad! Don’t be checking your email over dinner if you’ve told the kids no texting at the table. Kids are sensitive to hypocrisy.
- Recognise any underlying problems that may be supporting internet addiction. Is your child feeling left out at school or going through distress in another area of their life? They could be using the internet to cope.
- Modify the time your child spends online step by step. Make a commitment to turn off devices at the same time each night, or instigate a family ‘charging basket’ where devices have to sleep at night. You could also set limits on using electronic devices until after chores are completed.
- Organise offline activities and opportunities to balance out time in front of a screen.
- Get support from partners and other family members. The more face-to-face relationships your child enjoys, the less they will need to turn to the internet for social interaction. Find common interest groups such as a sports team, music class or club.
- Try using a digi agreement to put some guidelines in place.
Obsessive internet use.
Are you really concerned about your child’s internet use? According to leading US psychiatrist Dr Jerald Block, there are four signs that could point to obsessive internet use:
- Excessive use – losing track of time or neglecting to eat or sleep.
- Withdrawal – e.g. feelings of anger, tension or depression.
- Tolerance – wanting a better computer or more hours online.
- Negative repercussions – e.g. arguments, lies, isolation and tiredness.
Don’t panic if your teenager is showing some or all of these signs. They are probably being a normal teenager. Talk to your teenager to find out whats going on.
You can seek help here.