When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, screen time meant watching a couple of cartoons on TV after school (provided the TV didn’t overheat and turn off) and maybe playing some Super Nintendo or a handheld video game. By the time I was a teenager, ICQ was the messenger app of the day but dial up speeds were so slow that you never really did too much on the internet. Plus the only way to actually access the internet was on the one home computer shared by the whole family.

As a mum of a toddler I haven’t yet had to face the realities of managing screen time and the myriad of ever changing apps, devices and challenges that come with our uber connected world. So last week when I attended a briefing on the 2015 Teens, Tweens and Technology Research from Intel Security, I was quite blown away by the statistics.

Did you know:

  • 36% of boys and 64% of girls aged 8-12 are active on social media accounts, despite a minimum joining age of 13
  • 38% of teens and tweens admit to hiding online activity from friends, classmates, parents and teachers in the form of creating fake social media profiles
  • 53% of teens said that they had witnessed cyberbullying

But the research also revealed that parents are becoming more savvy around technology and becoming more involved in their children’s access to devices and increasingly engaging in conversations with their kids about the risks and dangers of being online and how to stay safe and protect themselves.

I walked away with a lot to think about. I dread to think how much the landscape will have changed in 6 years when I have a tweenager on my hands. At the briefing parenting expert, Dr Justin Coulson, made the point that we are the first generation of parents to deal with these issues. It is uncharted territory and we are leading the way.

So as I was thinking more about the topic, despite being awhile away from the tween and teen years, we all need to role model good screen behaviour for our kids. Often when I am trying to quickly answer an email or reply to a comment on my Facebook page, Olivia will take the phone out of my hand and place it on the floor. I’m sending her the message that my phone is more important than her and she is sending a big fat message right back at me.

Don’t get me wrong, kids do need to understand priorities, but if I am honest with myself I do spend way too much time looking at a screen when I should be enjoying time with my family. Some of it is just the way it is when you are a working mum but some of it is unnecessary.

At the briefing last week I asked the question of how we can role model good screen behaviour for our kids. How do we show them that sitting in front of a screen all day is not social behaviour and that it truly does limit the beauty you can see in the world? How do we manage our own behaviour and meet our kids expectations for being a good and present parent?

Dr Coulson’s advice was to set limits for the whole family and make sure that mum and dad stick to them. Make sure the same set of rules apply to every member of the family. So what kinds of rules and expectations should we be setting? Here are a few ideas:

  • No screens at the dinner table, including the TV. Save this time as family time to connect and talk about the day
  • No phones in the bedroom and not just for the kids. Leave phones in a drawer or at the bedroom door if you like to keep it within reach but not on the bedside table
  • If you work from home, have set working hours and leave work in the office. Only deal with emergencies outside of “working” hours
  • Review your privacy settings on social media accounts and talk to your kids about why strict privacy is important
  • Have set Facebook times for yourself, usually after the kids have gone to bed. I have recently limited how many times I open Facebook and I haven’t missed anything. Wait until the kids have gone to bed or while you are on the train to work to check what is happening in the world of social media

Intel Security have some great resources for keeping your family safe online so if you are seeking more information you can start there.

How do you role model good screen time behaviour with your kids? What kind of screen rules do you have in place?


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