Mental healthParentingToddler

Screens are here to stay these days, and they’re everywhere. You’ve likely heard about the importance of managing your child’s screen time, and we believe it’s important for children to develop a healthy relationship with screen time. 

A good amount of screen time can help your child with their development, much needed escapism and can even be educational. Like with everything, it’s important to have a good balance with your child’s screen time. 

So let’s take a look at the importance of managing your child’s screen time, and some tips to develop a healthy relationship with screens. 

Should I limit my child’s screen time? 

It’s important to use the right language when it comes to managing your child’s screen time. So talking about “limiting” your child’s screen time can sound quite restrictive and may lead to some upset and push back from your child. Instead try talking to your child about managing their screen time, and developing a healthy relationship with screen time. 

With that in mind, should you be putting limits on your child’s screen time? The short answer is yes. Your child shouldn’t have unlimited access to screens, particularly in their early, formative years as this can lead to unhealthy screen habits. This can have a knock on effect for their education including: 

The benefits of a screen time routine for children

Establishing routines can be a crucial part of children’s development as it teaches them about structure, time management and can help with healthy habits. The same applies to screen time - it’s important to ensure children aren’t spending too much time in front of screens as it can limit things like they’re physical and social development. 

With a healthy routine in place screen time can actually have a lot of benefits for children as a part of the development and education: 

  • Allow for additional socialising with friends outside of school time or with family members that they don’t see in person regularly
  • Video games can improve motor skills and coordination
  • Entertainment media can be a healthy outlet for children to just sit back and enjoy without feeling pressure to learn
  • Open up a world of possibilities when it comes to research and getting help with homework
  • E-books can encourage children to do more reading and improve literacy.

Setting screen time rules for your child

Sometimes it’s important to set rules to ensure children have a healthy development and relationship with technology and screen time. Setting rules might sometimes feel a bit restrictive, but there are ways you can set rules around your child’s screen time that are fair and will help your child understand why it’s important to not spend too much time in front of screens. 

Make them family rules

If the rules you make around screen time are consistent for the whole family then the rules will feel much more fair. You can negotiate with the whole family, particularly if your children are older. Simple rules like “no phones or tablets at meal times” can be good rules for the whole family to follow so no one feels that they’re being treated any differently. 

Other rules may just apply to children in the family, such as “no screen time before homework is finished”. With rules like this you can limit your own screen time during your child’s homework hours, while also helping them with their homework to show that you’re interested in their learning and the development of healthy screen time habits. 

Have some rule flexibility

Taking a one-size-fits-all approach might not always be the best way to set screen time rules, so having some flexibility to screen times rules can be really helpful. For example, your child may need to spend more time than usual on the family computer to do some research or to write up a homework project. Limiting your child’s screen time in this case could actually hinder their learning. 

There may be times when your child might benefit from additional screen time purely for entertainment purposes. For example, if your child is unwell or having a difficult mental health day, you can allow them more screen time that day. This teaches them that it’s okay to focus on themselves and their own enjoyment when they need to. 

Set screen time routines

Part of your rules should be setting routines around your child’s screen time so they know when it’s an appropriate time to use screens, and when it isn’t. For example, you can set one day each week where, provided your child doesn’t need to do research or homework, you and your children have no screen-time. 

You can also try setting times of day that your child is allowed to use their phones, tablets or video game consoles. For example on weekdays you could say that your children are only able to use devices with screens between 5pm and 7pm.

Personal screen time and family time

Similar to rule flexibility, you can allow your child to enjoy some screen time with the whole family outside of their set personal screen time hours. Sometimes it’s nice to sit down and watch a movie as a whole family, and it’s okay for this to be outside the screen time hours you’ve set for your children. 

This can help encourage your child to see screen time as an occasional social activity, so that they don’t begin to develop an unhealthy anti-social relationship with screens and devices. 

Teaching your child to manage their own screen time

Particularly as children get older it’s important to teach them about managing their own time. Giving your child some freedom to manage their own screen time can give them a sense of agency and teach them important lessons about self control. 

Rather than constantly managing your child’s screen time, you can teach them to make responsible choices. That way you can take a well deserved break, and encourage them to practise their time management skills. So let’s take a look at ways you can encourage your child to manage their own screen time…

Have positive talks about screen time

When you talk to your child about screen time, be sure to talk about the positives of screen time not just negatives. For example, if you only tell your child about how their time playing video games or on social media is cutting into their learning time, they’re more likely to avoid talking to you about screen time. 

Instead, try talking to your child about how some screen time can be beneficial, with emphasis on “some”. Talk to them about how they can use their screen time for educational purposes or how a bit of time playing video games can be healthy to unwind, so long as they’re not spending too long doing it.  

Be a good digital role model for your child’s screen time

It can be difficult to encourage your child to manage their own screen time if you aren’t setting good examples of responsible screen time usage. Are you checking your phone a lot at meal times? Are you reaching for your phone out of boredom? Are you using your phone late in the evenings during agreed no screen time?

Make sure that when you set screen time rules for your child that you’re also sticking to them yourself where possible. Of course, talk to your child about how you may need to sometimes be more flexible with the rules, for example if there’s an emergency or if you’re experiencing a particularly busy time at work. But otherwise, try to be a good digital role model for your child by sticking to the family screen time rules. 

Encourage your child with fun offline activities

Your child may be resorting to their devices, video games or spending a lot of time in front of the television because they feel like they don’t have anything else to do to keep themselves entertained. Boredom is a key factor in large amounts of screen time for a lot of us, and it’s no different for children. 

Try to give your child access to activities that don’t involve screens as a way to keep your child’s screen time down. You could try things like educational games for maths, so that they’re having fun and learning at the same time. Or you could schedule some daily family time where you could either go out for a walk together or play board games. 

Put screen time transitions in place

It can be difficult for some children to put their devices down and transition from screen time. If you abruptly tell your child to turn off their device or stop what they’re doing, you might get a little bit of push back. So try to help your child transition from their screen time. 

You can do this by managing expectations in advance, for example you can tell them that they can watch one episode of a television show before they start getting ready for bed. If your child plays video games you can show an interest in that by identifying natural stopping points such as the end of a level as a good time to tell them to finish up. If they’re working on something on the computer you offer to help them save their work and come off the computer to sit down for family time. 

Helping your child transition away from screen time can help them identify ways to manage their own screen time in the long run. 

Screen time and education

Some children enjoy a lot of screen time, and it’s easy to see why with so much exciting and engaging online content out there. Screens can really hold a child’s interest, particularly if they struggle with concentration elsewhere and need an outlet for boredom or frustration. 

However you may worry that if your child spends too much time in front of a screen that their education may suffer. If that is a concern for you, why not try combining screen time and education? 

With online tuition with Explore Learning your child can turn their screen time into learning time. Online tutors can provide them with social interaction through screens while also helping them learn and do their best in school. Our online learning platforms feature colourful and exciting characters and children feel rewarded when their studying with us pays off with better results both in their tutoring sessions and in school. 

It’s important to teach children to develop a healthy relationship with screen time, but you can also use screen time to unlock educational potential for your child through Explore Learning’s online tuition.

Why not give our online tuition a try with a free trial with Explore Learning? Get in touch to learn more. 

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