We are surrounded by digital media, technology and screens. They are a big part of life for most people.
Children and families often use technology for entertainment and learning. Modern technology allows us to seek answers to questions, reach out across the world, and open our minds to endless information and possibilities.
Supporting healthy screen time habits
Australian school children use technology (including TV) for an average of 20 to 25 hours a week.
It’s important to make sure that the use of devices and screens does not take the place of beneficial activities essential to our children’s health – and ours too. This includes adequate sleep, regular mealtimes, and physical activity.
You have an important role in managing your child’s screen time and helping your child develop healthy screen time habits.
Healthy screen time for preschoolers and primary schoolers means choosing quality programs and applications (apps). It is also important to have an adult watching or playing with them whenever they are using their devices.
When you help your child combine good choices with screen time boundaries, it forms the foundation of a healthy relationship with technology.
Constant use of technology can mean your child ends up relying too much on technology for ‘something to do’.
Playing on a device in boring situations may distract your child, but it can mean your child misses the chance to learn social skills. These social skills include how to act in public, how to interact with new people, and how to manage boredom in creative ways.
You can set a good example by using other ways to keep your child entertained in situations like long car journeys. You can use books, crayons and paper, toys, or play games like ‘I Spy’.
Some guidelines that may be helpful
- Be a good role model by monitoring and limiting your own use of technology.
- Have relaxation time that does not involve screens, like listening to music or stories.
- Be selective about programs and apps.
- Set clear limits and boundaries and schedule screen-free time.
- Participate in or monitor device-based tasks.
- Take time to ask your child about their homework.
Supervising and setting limits
Managing screen time can be tricky. One of the best ways is to encourage your child to make choices about their screen time within your agreed limits.
- Use technology and devices as an opportunity to connect and have fun together by playing games or watching with your children.
- Actively supervise and explain what they are seeing and how it relates to their world – the more a child can apply their learning to the real world, the better their educational experience.
- Aim to limit screen time to one hour a day for pre-schoolers.
- Avoid use of digital devices or screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
- Keep track of what your child is doing or using on digital devices.
- Consider consistent time limits based on the value of the content: does it stimulate imagination, encourage creativity, or build meaningful connections?
- Talk to your child about cyber-safety and ways to stay safe online.
Want to know more?
Kids Matter – How screen time affects health
Kids Matter – Strategies for screen time
Kids Matter – Cyber safety and children’s mental health
Raising Children Network – Entertainment and technology articles
Office of the eSafety Commissioner – iParent
The latest recommendations based on science can be found American Academy of Paediatrics.