Grown ups

Parents and screen time: role-modelling for children

Parents and screen time: role-modelling for children

What is healthy screen use?

Healthy screen use is using technology in balanced and positive ways.

It's about what you use your screens for as well as much time you spend using them. It's also about making sure that screen time is just one of the ways that you relax and entertain yourself - not the only way.

How your approach to screens influences your child

Your child is strongly influenced by the way you use screens and is likely to copy what you do. So it's worth thinking about the messages you're sending your child about screens and their place in your life.

For example, if you enjoy scrolling through social media for a little while and then going for a family walk, it sends your child the message that social media is just one option for entertaining yourself and relaxing. It also gives your child ideas for other ways to spend her time.

But if you get agitated about being offline for an hour, this can send a less balanced message. Likewise, taking your phone into the bathroom when you shower might send the message that you really can't live without a phone.

Screens can get in the way of interactions between parents and children - for example, if parents interrupt conversations with children to check text messages. If this happens often, children might feel they're not important. This can also lead to behaviour like whining or tantrums because children can't get their parents' attention with positive behaviour.

Role-modelling healthy screen time: tips

Here are some ideas for healthy screen time that you can use to set a good example for your child:

  • Set aside some phone-free time each day, so you can be 'in the moment' with your child. This could be when your child gets home from school or you get home from work, during family mealtimes, when you're watching your child play sport, when you're at the park with your child and so on.
  • If you get a text message or social media update while you're talking to someone, especially your child, wait until the conversation is finished before you check it.
  • Try not to have your phone, tablet or laptop in your bedroom at night. Charge your devices overnight in a family area, and teach your child to do the same.
  • Switch off the TV at family mealtimes or when it's 'on in the background'. You could try listening to some music instead.
  • Work together with your child to create a family media plan. You could include things like no mobiles phone at mealtimes. Then make sure you follow the guidelines in the plan too!
  • Use screens in a positive way - for example, to keep in touch with family and friends by sending texts, making video calls or using social media.
  • Take breaks and move around regularly when you're using screens. And use your device at eye level for good posture.
  • Avoid always using screens to entertain your child in situations like long car journeys or appointments. Try mixing it up with things like memory games, card games, reading or drawing.

Keep track of your screen time for a week. Include all your screen use - TV, video games, social media, texts and so on. If you think you're using screens more than you'd like to, reduce your use. Try checking your phone less often, or plan heavy use for weekends or as a treat.

Role-modelling healthy social media use: tips

Healthy social media use can keep you connected with friends and interests, the latest news, your child's school and sports activities, and so on.

If you use and enjoy social media, there are plenty of ways you can be a role model for your child:

  • Regularly check the privacy settings on your social media accounts.
  • Take care of your digital footprint by being careful about the photos and comments you post and the photos and comments you're tagged in. Make sure you're always respectful in your posts.
  • Talk about your social media use with your child. This will encourage him to be open about his social media use too. If you share fun content with each other, it can be a great way to talk about the things you both like and think are important.
  • Talk with your child about being social media friends. This can be a great way to be a part of your child's life and share interests. Younger teenagers might be OK with this, but older teenagers might prefer not to friend you.
  • Ask your child for permission before you post a photo of her or share information about her on social media.

If your screen time feels out of control, try to change the ways you use technology. If you're finding it hard, look for support from friends, family or a professional. If your child sees you trying to manage your screen time, this sets a good example for him too.