Managing screen time has become increasingly important in today’s digital age, where our children have become surrounded by various electronic devices. The consumption of digital content whether through TV, computer, phone or other means can quickly add up to a significant portion of your day if left unstructured. Excessive screen time can have negative impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing and at Kingsway Christian College we encourage all parents and carers to be proactive in their approach to screen time management.
So how can we, as parents, ensure our children are navigating the digital world safely while still maintaining healthy, real-world relationships with peers?
Below are our top five tips to help your child navigate the online environment:
1. Be interested and pay attention to what your child is looking at online
Much of what is viewed online only provides a snapshot or is simply not real at all. Talking to your children and being interested in their online world can help you understand the context and type of content they are consuming. When there’s transparency and communication, it is much easier to have valued conversations with your child about what’s real in an image or a perceived online friendship. It can be too easy for children and teenagers to view online perfection as ‘normal’ when in fact, filters and Photoshopping are the only way to achieve what’s being represented.
2. Be Positive and Accepting
Be clear that your child, no matter how young or old, is accepted for who they are and that they are loved. As parents we assume our children already know this but it’s important to reaffirm it – often. We can also show this by establishing common interests or activities and making time to enjoy them together, and regularly. By creating an environment that is positive, open and honest, children feel less of a need to guard their content or engage in secretive behaviour patterns.
3. Encourage Offline Activities
Children in a digital world can feel as if the whole universe revolves around social media. As parents, it’s our job to involve them in something bigger. A great approach is to help your child develop interests in activities that stimulate and engage their strengths and talents. Sports, co-curricular activities and societies/clubs are a good way to fuel positivity, engage with friends and peers face-to-face and improve social maturity.
4. Set Limits and Expectations
Children and teenagers respond more positively when there are clear and agreed expectations set prior to activities, including going online. Establish some firm online timeframes and standards of behaviour when using the internet. Remind your child there are real people on the other side of the keyboard with feelings that are easily hurt, so kindness and respect are vital when commenting. Children should be aware that anything posted online is never secret or anonymous and there can be severe, real-world consequences to adverse online activity. Importantly, ensure phones or tablets are stored away from the bedroom at night. This can greatly reduce bedtime anxiety simply by removing the temptation to constantly reply.
5. Lead by Example
As a parent/carer you are your child’s primary role model and therefore it’s essential to lead by example when it comes to screen time management. Parents/carers can lead the way and model the behaviours they would like to see in their children. By demonstrating healthy screen habits by limiting your own screen time, engaging in alternative activities, and prioritising meaningful connections with others it is possible to see many positive benefits flow. Children are more likely to adopt healthy habits if they see adults practicing them (Frech A. Healthy Behavior Trajectories between Adolescence and Young Adulthood).
To learn more about Kingsway and our values for life, explore Our Story page.
If you would like to learn more about more about the digital space and cyber safety for your child, Kayelene Kerr will be holding a Parent Workshop on Digital Wellness and Cyber Safety on Wednesday November 1. Click here for more details.