As parents, we often face with the dilemma of screen time. Are our children spending too much time on digital devices?
We also worry about the increasing use of these devices in an education setting once children reach primary school.
If left to make their own decisions, many children would spend hours online, scrolling away, chatting to peers and swiping on games.
This all takes time away from them being outdoors or making physical connections with their friends.
As with too much of any one thing, too much screen time can have an impact on children’s well-being.
But we also have to face the fact that digital devices are here to stay and they will only be getting more advanced.
How can we create healthy digital habits in children that ensure that they (and we) are in control of their screen time? And that the time they do spend online is educational as well as entertaining?
How do we balance screen time with plenty of time outdoors in the fresh air, exploring the physical world around them?
Here are 5 ways parents and caregivers, can foster healthy digital habits in children of all ages, while ensuring they aren’t spending too much time on their devices.
Leading by Example: 4 Questions Parents Need to Ask
We know that children learn from what they see rather than what they are told.
So if they see their parents or older siblings always on their digital devices, there is a good bet that they will want to do the same.
And it’s not just about how much time you spend online. Here are 4 questions worth asking yourself:
- Do you follow people or groups that are supportive, inspiring and uplifting?
- Do you interact with people online in positive ways?
- Do you put your device down and interact with people who are having a conversation with you, instead of continuing to scroll?
- Do you put your device away to ensure that your other tasks and important items get completed through the day?
If the answer is yes then you probably have some pretty healthy digital habits yourself. It it’s ‘no’ or ‘sometimes’ then they’re worth taking a look at.
Set Reasonable Time Limits Together
Like television and other media, the use of digital devices should have reasonable limits depending on the age of your child. You can discuss these with your child and agree on them together.
While your child can find useful things online: like information or connecting to friends and peers, there is also a whole world for them explore.
A growing body of evidence has recently emerged supporting the benefits of free play in children.
Unstructured play, both indoors and outdoors, stimulates creativity, problem solving and the ability to work together with friends.
Outdoor or nature play should also be a top priority, particularly for younger children.
Avoid Screen Time Being Alone Time
Sometimes children use digital devices for educational reasons, such as to help with school assignments, in which case it makes sense for them to do this research alone.
At other times though, your child can be encouraged to share what they are doing online with you.
You could play a video game with your child. That way you can show them how to behave and interact socially online when playing with other team members.
You could watch a show with them and discuss what is happening in the show. Maybe it’s a show with dinosaurs in it and you could talk about the different dinosaurs and what they eat, how big they are and how they behave.
If you’re there with them during some of their screen time, rather than just monitoring them online, it will give you a better understand of what they are doing, and help open up their interests to you.
Set Tech Free Zones
Creating tech free zones are a great way to keep the use of digital devices to specific times and places.
Many families make mealtimes, family events and bedrooms tech free zones.
You could turn off the television and devices when sitting down for a meal.
You could set aside time to have family events like games nights or movie nights.
It’s also a good idea to recharge devices overnight outside of the bedrooms.
Tech free zones encourage more time spent interacting with the family face to face.
Research the Apps They Are Using
There are so many apps available that are categorised as educational that it’s hard to know which to choose.
Unfortunately many have not been assessed for the quality of what they aim to teach children.
Apps like Reading Eggs can be great ways to make learning fun. They offer online games, reading lessons and tools to help children learn to read.
But of course even the best apps shouldn’t cancel out any face to face learning your child can benefit from.
Take some time to research the apps that are available so that you can choose a few approved age-appropriate ones for your child to use.
This article was written by Treasured Tots, who offer ‘Top quality Early Childhood centres in Western Australia’.
At Treasured Tots digital time is limited to very select educational sessions. These could be showing children short videos on other cultures and languages or the world around us that complement what they are already learning.
These videos are only used if other resources are not available.