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Balancing screen time

Cyber Security Consumer advice

Posted on January 29, 2015

4 min read

As a parent, it may be difficult to know where to start when it comes to instilling family values in relation to children’s online activity. How much time online is too much? How can you set reasonable limits? And more to the point, how can you enforce them?

The release of our Cyber Safety – Balancing Screen Time survey this week is a timely reminder about the important role parents have in setting a positive digital media example for their children.

‘Balancing screen time’ means being aware of how to balance time spent online with all of life’s other activities such as getting enough sleep, exercise, school work, hobbies, face-to-face time with friends and family, and other important tasks.

The survey asked more than 1000 Australian parents of children aged 3-17 about their own use and their children’s use of devices. In a unique aspect, the Survey also asked more than 500 Australian children aged 12-17 about their own use and perceptions of their parents’ use of devices.

Surprisingly, or maybe it’s not surprising to some, 65 per cent of parents surveyed do not think they’re good technology role models. The survey also revealed that 50 per cent of children say their parents are good technology role models. So while kids have a more positive view of their parents than their parents have of themselves, 10% of kids still believe their parents spend too much time on their devices.

The correlation between parents’ and children’s online behaviours is demonstrated in some further statistics from the survey include:

  • 66 per cent of parents admit to using devices in front of the television; compared to 71 per cent of children;
  • 50 per cent of parents ‘second screen’ between 7pm-9pm during school nights; compared to 41 per cent of children; and
  • 15 per cent of parents use devices during meal times compared to 19 per cent of children.

Maybe it’s a case of do as I say, rather than do as I do, but with millions of Aussie kids about to return to school, we’re encouraging parents to be mindful of the example they set and talk to children about ways they can balance their digital lives.

Cyber safety stats
Pictured: how to balance screen time with your kids. See the full version.

Here are just some of the ways you can help balance your children’s screen time.

Agree limits

Talk to your children about the amount of digital time they’re living and then, based on what you agree is a healthy balance, set ‘switched off’ times of day. Help your children create a media use roster allocating blocks of time for homework, chores and their screen time.

Be an offline supporter

Support and encourage your kids in activities that don’t involve a digital device. A ball game or reading a book are all great ways to show kids how they can enjoy themselves without a mobile, tablet or computer.

Set family rules

Make sure you’re seen as a positive example. Do you want the dinner table to be a device-free zone? If so, then have everyone (including Mum and Dad) turn off their mobile phones and devices during dinner, or when taking part in family activities. Children are happier following rules if everyone in the family plays by them.

Turn off devices before bedtime

Lack of sleep can affect alertness, concentration and memory. For a better night’s sleep try encouraging children to switch off at least one hour before bedtime. Create a charging station and charge all household devices in the one spot overnight.

Make the most of parental controls

Many parental controls tools allow you to set time-of-day restrictions on children’s device usage. We recommend Telstra Smart Controls® for mobile devices and Telstra Online Security for your home network.

Consider the difference between types of screen time

Not all screen time is created equal. Think about the differences between using a device for homework or creative expression versus using it for passive entertainment.