We've had many conversations with parents recently who are tearing their hair out trying to police their screen time rules, so we decided to put a quick article together providing some guidance and reassurance on how best to manage screen time during this covid-19 lockdown!
1. Relax....Perspective is Key
Let's take a step back. Remember screen time is not a risk that materialises over a day or two. If your child suddenly binges on Fortnite or Netflix for 6 hours in a day they don't experience any long lasting negative effects over night.
Screen time management is to install good digital citizenship behaviour in our kids from an early age, so that they have balance for the long term. Research has proven that screen time can increase chances of obesity, disturb sleep patterns and lead to behavioural problems in children, but this happens over prolonged periods of screen time abuse, not a couple of months.
So, relax. This corona virus will be short-term (months not years) and so it's OK for your usual screen time rules to be relaxed somewhat to make life easier in this difficult time - don't beat yourself up about it!
2. Quality Over Quantity
With much more time spend online each day there is much higher probability that your kids are getting exposed to inappropriate content. So instead of worrying about the duration they are online, focus more on whether or not the content they are accessing is appropriate or not.
School classes are being run at the moment...this is educational and shouldn't be considered 'screen time' per se. It's high quality screen time. Ensuring good content is key. Obviously kids should be allowed some down time on their devices but it is this lower quality content that should be controlled.
Use our other materials on SimpleCyberLife.com to setup parental controls on search engines (see here) and common media sites (see here and here for YouTube). These help ensure that kids don't accidentally access adult material that might be upsetting for them.
3. Embrace It, Take Some You Time
Can you really imagine a life without Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig to run yourself a bath or take some quiet time...it is OK! Maintaining a happy home and relationship with your kids is much more important at this time than enforcing arbitrary screen time rules, so, take some time for yourself to unwind and destress.
3. Try a Complete Family Digital Detox
Many people report multiple health benefits when they take a digital detox for a short period - more focused, concentrated and present (when they stop using technology). There are two methods you can try;
i) Regulate your behaviour - decide certain situations or places where you don’t want you and your kids to use your phone. We'd suggest at the dinner table (for all meals), in the bathroom and in the bedroom. Get a family charging station (something like this) for only £20-30, so that everyone in the family puts their devices on the station before they go to bed so they’re not up until late scrolling social media or watching youtube. Everyone wakes up with fully charged devices too which is a bonus.
ii) Regulate the technology - use a parental control app like Qustodio or a screen time app that enforces a screen time schedule. We much prefer the behavioural method because at this time a child might need to be on their device for school and it can be hard to distinguish between the types of time they spend on their tech.
Top Tip: disable push notifications (go to your devices settings and it should have a 'Notifications' section where you can turn notifications off). A quieter phone is used much much less.
You can even try a weekend (Saturday morning to Sunday evening without any tech). Parents are allowed for logistical reasons only!
4. Be Conscious of Who is Contacting Your Kids
With increased time on chat apps and online gaming, it's much more likely that predators will get in contact with your children. So, be aware of what apps have a chat or video chat functionality and disable or monitor appropriately.
Some key ones to be aware of are; Zoom, Houseparty, Fortnite and WhatsApp.
If you suspect someone is trying to contact your kids on an app, get in contact with one of our experts immediately via the member forum.
5. Make a Conscious Effort for Offline Activities
Preserve offline experiences, which help your family connect emotionally. Find offline activities that help your family relax and communicate together. A simple google search will help you find physical, creative, or playful things to do with the kids.
6. Use Screen Time to Connect!
Use your kids screen time in a positive way to connect with friends and loved ones. Elderly people especially are lonely at the moment so fire up WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom or Houseparty and connect with loved ones. Connecting face to face can be much more enjoyable for everyone involved than texting or email.