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The importance of managing kids’ screen time – and how to do it

24 May 2021

Many families are concerned about how many hours their kids spend looking at screens, especially in the winter months. But experts say that the quality of screen time is just as important as the quantity. Here are some tips for helping kids develop good digital habits this winter.

As the weather gets chilly, we’re spending more time inside. While your kids might be tempted to swap beach time for screen time, is that really a good idea?

You’re probably aware of the negative effects of too much screen time such as:

  • behavioural issues
  • learning difficulties, and
  • weight gain.

But experts agree that the quality of screen time is just as important as the quantity. With teenagers spending more than seven hours a day glued to a screen, how can we ensure they form good digital habits?

Here are some practical tips to help guide your screen time rules.

Encourage your children to be ‘active’ internet users

Active internet users tend to be more engaged in the content they’re reading, questioning what they watch and striking up conversations. Being an active user is great – studies show if our children interact when they learn, they retain more information.

Passively scrolling without any focus or direction can lead to disengagement and attention loss – which equates to wasted time. Giving your kids a targeted activity will encourage them to make interesting online discoveries, and help them become active internet users. Likewise, for younger children, engaging in a learning-based program such as Reading Eggs or talking to family members over FaceTime is prefereable to mindlessly watching YouTube Kids.

Be aware of how your children use social media

Your children might be socialising more online during the chilly months as the weather keeps them inside, but make sure you keep tabs on what they’re doing.

It’s recommended that children under 13 stay away from social media, but if your kids are older than this and already online, be conscious of how they use social platforms and who they’re talking to.

Have an open conversation and remind your children that anything they post on the internet will be there forever. Speak to them about cyber-bullying and encourage them to be open with you if they ever need to talk.

Make sure screens don’t impact sleep

Young people are still learning how to be self-disciplined and it’s important we guide them on this journey.

It’s easy for teenagers to lose track of time as they fall down the internet rabbit hole, so it’s a good idea to keep digital devices out of bedrooms to ensure they get a good night’s sleep.

Teenagers need more sleep than adults – between 8 and 10 hours a night – as their bodies and brains are growing rapidly. Make sure their social media use doesn’t impinge on this.

Ask them to turn off all technology before bed, giving them a chance to wind down. On a cold night, why not ask them to sit around the fire with you out in the lounge, and read a good book?

Turn off your own device and join them for some family time. After all, we should be leading by example when it comes to screen use.

Banning screen time is unrealistic

While it might be tempting to ban screens altogether, this isn’t realistic, especially during winter when your child will be spending more time inside. However, if we set limits, monitor how our children are using social media, and educate them about cyber-bullying, we can set them up for a lifetime of good screen habits.

Make sure those devices are covered

Electronic devices aren’t always cheap, and replacing them if they’re damaged or stolen can be a hassle — so ensuring they’re covered by your Contents Only or Home & Contents Insurance can offer a little peace of mind. Ensure that your sum insured is enough to cover all your contents, devices included, and consider adding the Personal Valuables optional cover if you want the policy to extend to things like smartphones and tablets when they leave the house with you.

Learn about Contents Insurance

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance.

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