The ever expanding online world is encouraging us to use the internet more than ever before, and while it can be a wonderful resource to research, communicate, and entertain, it can become all-consuming and even addictive.
The internet, and associated apps, is basically a big competition to get the most users, clicks, and engagement. There’s no denying it’s an amazing tool with its ever growing range of entertaining and educational programmes and clips, research information, the ability to connect with family and friends, make new friends, listen to and create music and videos, play games, and even explore their identity. Fundamentally though, this amazing tool is designed to encourage us to go back again and again.
So how can we ensure our screen time is adding value to our life, and not diminishing it?
How much time is too much time online?
Determining how much time online is worrying is not a precise science and is dependent on factors such as they age of the user, and how they are actually using the internet.
Time spent watching Tik Tok’s and snapchatting ‘streaks’ to friends is fun, if not wholly educational, while playing violent or aggressive games is certainly a very different experience to reading online, researching, or watching informative YouTube videos and documentaries. Is your child communicating safely with friends or are they spending time mindlessly watching ‘influencers’?
For younger children, some online time alongside you using devices or applications that are designed especially for them is fine. However young kids predominantly need to be moving, exploring, playing, and experiencing things in the real world.
Signs your child is online too much
There are some key behaviours that will give you an indication your child is spending too much time online, or even starting to develop a screen addiction.
– They stay online much longer than they intended to
– They are aggressive or agitated when they come off line
– They become agitated or anxious when they cannot get online
– They lie about how long they are online
– Their sleep is being affected by their online use
– Their school work is suffering
– They cannot stop using their device, even when it’s inappropriate such as talking to people or at the dinner table
– They are not spending time with friends in real life
– They start to neglect things they have previously loved such as reading, craft, or sport
Changes in their behaviour and happiness can also be a sign that they are having a distressing experience online such as bullying, or an inappropriate relationship.
Tips to help manage screen time
First up, talk with your child to find out what they are actually doing online. Getting an understanding of what they love will be a great input into what rules and restrictions you will apply.
Work with them to understand exactly how much time they spend on screens – they might be shocked! Most smartphones have a weekly screen time report.
To help them avoid the need to pick up the phone constantly, turn off push notifications, and stop notifications from apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Messenger. Encourage your child to not feel obliged to respond straight away to every message and notification.
Model the behaviour you want and get off the screens yourself! Involve the kids in activities and jobs around the house, encourage them to get outside for a bike ride or a bounce on the trampoline. Sign them up to some sport or other after school activity. Join a library and have a set time each week that you visit.
Set rules around when they are not allowed to use devices for example, when going to bed, at the dinner table, during family time, when visitors come, and before they are ready for school.
Getting a helping hand
The reality is that for most kids the lure of the screen is almost impossible to ignore. Some parents find installing good security software is a great way to monitor your kid’s online behaviour, flag unsafe behaviour so you can talk about it, and keep their children safe while using the internet.
What are your top tips for managing time online ?
Written by Robyn
Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.
Favourite motto to live by: “This too will pass”