Heathdale flower 19th September 2019

Screen Time, Without the Judgement

Screen time isn't all the same. Here are some ways to help your family break it down.

Heathdale flower

Every week my phone sends me a judge-y little reminder telling me whether my average screen time has gone up or down over the last seven days. Each time, I rationalise this pesky bit of information… ‘Oh, that YouTube video was for educational purposes’ or ‘most of this must have been when I was browsing the latest NAPLAN Reports.’

And that’s the thing. Sometimes I am engaging in a modicum of online professional development while looking at my screen, and other times… I’m probably just watching live snow cams. But this one-size-fits-all readout doesn’t care about the breakdown between useful and recreational screen time.

These school holidays, if your children are anything like mine, that screen time average is only going up! But rather than feeling the guilt of justification, let it lead you to a well-balanced and planned amount of screen time. I recently read an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics (sic) which had some great tips on how to help your child have a healthy amount of screen time.

- Screen time doesn’t have to mean alone time. Co-view, co-play and co-engage with children when they are using screens. If your child likes Minecraft – consider building a world together. If your child is more of a Mario Brothers fan – spend some time playing with them through the levels. If your child’s not into games, perhaps ask them to research a subject, or watch a documentary and unpack it together at dinner time.

- Treat media as you would any other area of your child’s life. Parents need to know what friends their child/ren play with online and what programs they engage with. This is a continual conversation, as your child’s friends may invite other friends into their private online gaming spaces. Have some rules around this and set expectations so your children know what to do and what you expect of them. For example, do you have a list of kids and their code names that they are allowed to play with? What does your child do when someone they don’t know, joins the play space?

- Children need and expect limits – sit down and discuss them together at the beginning of the holidays, so they know what to expect. Make sure you schedule some time each day for creative play, physical activity, jobs around the house, friendship playdates as well as screen time.

- Consider a ‘tech free’ space or time (this means adults too!) – Keep the dining room (or other space) tech free to play a board game, do a puzzle or set up a ‘creative’ space.

I hope that these tips may assist you as they will me, in planning our children’s screen time over these school holidays. I trust you will enjoy your holidays and see you refreshed for Term 4.