TIME ONLINE

Help your child achieve a healthy balance in their online and offline activities.

How much is too much?

 

There is no magic figure. The right amount of screen time can depend on a range of factors: your child’s age and maturity, the kind of content they are consuming, their learning needs, and your family's daily routine. It can be easy to focus only on the clock, but the quality and nature of what they are doing online (and your involvement) are just as important.

Consider your child’s screen use in the context of their overall health and well-being. For example, is online time getting in the way of their sleep, exercise, and extracurricular activities? Is it impacting on their face-to-face connections with family and friends? The answers to these questions will help you find the right balance of online and offline activities for your child.

Signs to watch for

Signs that your child’s online activity may be having a negative impact on them or on your family include: 

 

  • less interest in social activities (meeting friends or playing sports)

  • under performing at school

  • fatigue, sleep disturbance, headaches, eye strain 

  • changes in the way they eat

  • reduced personal hygiene

  • obsession with particular websites or games

  • extreme anger when being asked to take a break from online activity

  • appearing anxious or irritable when away from the computer

  • becoming withdrawn from friends and family

What to do if you're concerned

Ask questions and listen

  • Some of the behavioral changes described above are a normal part of growing up, but if you are concerned your child is struggling, try to find out why — there may be underlying issues like cyberbullying, friendship difficulties, or mental health issues

  • As part of your conversation, talk to your child about how much time they are spending online and explain what they could be missing out on (and why this is a problem). 

  • Be conscious about showing your disapproval -- they might shut down communication altogether. 

  • Talk to your child’s school -- this may reveal academic or social issues, and the school may be able to provide support

Help your child manage their online time

Stay engaged and encourage balance

  • Keep an eye on the games, apps and devices your child uses. Chat with your child regularly and help them stay aware of how much time they are spending on different online and offline activities. 

  • Include positive things outside the online world in your conversations: what they love, careers they are interested in, new hobbies, and their friends.

  • Join in. Play games together as a family, or explore some joint online projects. Teach them that online time doesn't have to be a solitary activity -- it can be another way of strengthening connections as well as building social skills.

  • Where possible, avoid limiting online time as a punishment. This approach may inflate its importance to children.

Create a plan

  • Involve your child in creating a family plan for leisure and entertainment time that balances time spent sitting in front of screens — including time online and watching TV — and a variety of offline activities. 

  • Work out the plan together. Young people are more likely to respond to rules they have contributed to and see as being fair and consistent.

  • The plan could include age-based time limits and rules about which websites can be visited/online games that can be played. It could also include rules controlling access to the internet or devices, perhaps with daily passwords revealed once family time, homework, and chores are complete.

  • A minor reduction each day or a ‘15-minutes to switch-off’ warning can help the transition to a more balanced use of time.

Reducing your own screen time also sets a positive example.

  • You could also consider formalizing your plan into a signed written agreement — a family online safety contract.

  • There should be clear consequences for not sticking to the agreement and it is important to follow through with these. 

Use the available technology

  • Parental controls are software tools that allow you to monitor and limit what your child sees online. But be honest and open with your children about why and how you want to use these technologies.

  • There are also apps and software to measure online time as well as set time limits on device use or internet access.

  • Find out more information about parental controls in monitoring apps.

Set boundaries for digital device use in your home

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Device-free zones and times can help you manage screen time. For example, your family plan could include rules like this:

  • no devices in the bedroom for younger children

  • all screens off in bedrooms after a certain time for older children

  • all screens off at least one hour before planned bedtime

  • all family members switch off at dinner time

  • devices charged overnight in a place your child cannot access

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Know Your Net's mission is to create a safer online environment for people of all ages. We are always trying to grow and improve. If you have any suggestions of what should be added to this website, please click "contact" and let us know.

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