Being cyber savvy doesn’t need to send you Snapchatting your techy kids but there is a lot parents can do to keep screens a safe, positive part of the household.

So you’ve got Kids YouTube set up and a password your geniuses haven’t cracked – yet. Think that’s enough to protect them, right? We at KIDDO know the online world may be funny and entertaining to our littlies but it can be serious business in the parenting minefield, so we’ve called in the experts!

Cybersafe Families is an SA based family owned and operated company specialising in Cyber Safety, Education and Counselling. They help families feel safer about their home online environment.

Make the first click

You were not born with a mobile device, but your children were so don’t feel despaired about your level of knowledge compared to theirs. For them it is second nature.

While many parents have been deliberately avoiding ‘tech-life’, whether it’s from an ingrained love of the outdoors or just little interest in looking at a screen while not at work, the online world is affecting our kids and we can’t afford to have our heads buried in the sand. They need your guardianship in the online world just as in the real world. A great first step is to begin learning about the apps your children are using, to do this, Cybersafe Families recommend talking to your kids about their favourites. Try asking about them in a non-intrusive way, ask for a demonstration and show the privacy settings. Let them teach you for a change and make it a pleasant experience.

How much screen time is too much?

It’s the question that many parents are wanting to know the answer to: how much screen time should my child be having each day?

Like most things in life relating to parenting, finding the balance between screen time and non-screen time is subjective. We live in a world where most children grow up seeing their parents using devices constantly; taking photos, scrolling through social media, checking emails, researching and messaging friends.  How many of us reach for our phone as soon as we wake and can be found scrolling through Facebook or some other form of social media last thing at night?

There are no hard and fast answers to determine the best amount of screen time for our children, just suggested guidelines and advice. The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner recommends the following;

Age Time
Under 2 years Zero
2 to 5 years Less than one hour per day
5 to 17 years Less than two hours per day

Restricting children’s screen time is a personal decision and it’s one that we recommend discussing openly with your family. Screen time, time online or device time as it is also called, includes; TV, gaming, texting and use of electronic devices for entertainment.  The above timeframe recommendations do not take into account the screen time that children spend to study and learn or complete homework and implies time spent with a device for entertainment.

Screen time has been receiving a bad rap recently, however it is important to weigh up both sides of the debate as there are just as many positives as there are negatives.

Pros Cons
Can help to enable social interaction Can lead to lack of concentration at school
Can improve learning; numeracy and literacy Can lead to reduced activity which can lead to weight issues
Can enhance learning experiences Can impact sleep patterns

Below are a few tips to reducing screen time to kick start your routine;

  • Lead by example – our devices have become an extension of ourselves
  • Discuss and decide as a family on an appropriate amount of daily screen time, this will vary depending the age of your children
  • Make sure that other activities are readily available to encourage screen free time – bring out the old Monopoly set or Uno cards
  • Implement device free times or zones – no devices in the kitchen or at meal times

Digital Detox

Escaping technology is becoming a sought-after commodity in our modern lives, so much so that retailer Kiki K has developed a range of Phone Boxes.  These boxes encourage healthy habits with family and friends by encouraging everyone to store their phones in the boxes and be ‘present’.

Alarmingly 1 in 3 teens use their devices at home between 10pm and midnight and mostly in their bedrooms.  These boxes can also be used as a family charging station, so why not encourage everyone to go device free in their bedrooms and leave their devices at the family charging station at designated time every night. Sounds like a great start to having a restful night!

Got a family-related tech question?  KIDDO readers are encouraged to post a question on the Cybersafe Families Facebook pageand selected ones will be published in future issues.