The term ‘screen time’ is a pretty broad coverall for all of the ways that we access digital content throughout our day. From the desktop or laptops we use for work, our phones, television sets, tablets and iPads: our screens are firmly entrenched in our work and personal lives as well as our children’s.

And yet as parents, we often feel pretty guilty about the time that our children spend using devices or watching TV. Yes, the experts are clear about the lack of benefit of mindless screen time for children but not all digital time is created equal. Ultimately our aim is to ensure that our children are getting the maximum benefit from their screen time. The approach to this varies by your child’s age and ability so we have put together some things to consider when creating healthy digital habits. Read on and be sure to add any suggestions in the comments section.

Quality influencers. This is as important as evaluating your children’s peer groups and role models. It is crucial to get to grips with who your children are engaging with and listening to online. Often, children can go down the ‘rabbit hole’ of matched content without fully exploring the wealth of content available that properly matches their interests and hobbies. Teach your children to search for real educational and useful content online.

Understand where content comes from. Remember the Momo challenge? What about kids eating laundry pods? These scary virals started as very basic content uploads aimed at getting people to like and share data. Liked and shared data can translate directly into money by the people who upload the initial content – sometimes very innocently in the case of the Momo viral. People are often uploading content that is enhanced and possibly unreal to gain as many likes and follows as possible. Empower children to maintain a healthy level of skepticism with content and question the purpose of it before they take it on board. Or better yet, ask for adult guidance of anything they are unsure of.

Create, don’t just cruise. Encourage children to get involved with the things that take their interest. Using their creative minds to contribute content and share their own views is a great tool to build confidence. Of course, adding content will open them up to both positive and potentially negative feedback so its essential that they are prepared for this. They will also be inclined to be more aware of their responses to others content.

Keep it social. Screen time should not be a reclusive time and should not isolate us. Technology has connected the world in ways we never believed possible – use it to the same in your home. Play games together, cozy up with a film (sharing experiences is particularly bonding) or share the content that interests you so they get to know you better. The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely changed the way we communicate with our loved ones and the value of a phone call – not to mention the building of conversation and relationship skills that we gain from regularily getting in contact with our loved ones.

Have digital tidy up. Old apps, unused games, cookies, saved content, subscriptions and so on and on can all builds up. Take the time every now and then to delete that which you don’t need, unsubscribe from anything unused and generally have a clear out. A tidy up will help the algorithms send you content that is aimed at your interest and not something you happened to engage with briefly but now have no interest in.

Balance is crucial. As with anything, balance is essential and digital time is only one part of a health lifestyle. Screen time should be limited to a time that suits your family and should never stop your children from sleeping properly, eating well, exercising, learning and engaging with others. If you feel that your child’s digital time is pinch other areas of their life then its time to re-evulate how if fits into their day.

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