It’s summertime and holidays are well and truly upon us, whether that be at home, abroad, or just a change of scenery. While we can’t guarantee sun time, we can predict high levels of screentime for our children and young people during the school holiday season.
Whether you are a parent, carer, or a safeguarding professional, this online safety article contains some top tips and advice on encouraging and supporting you to establish healthy screentime habits. It will identify popular platforms and games your child or young person may be using, and enable and utilise parental controls and safety settings. Consider it your factor 50 for screentime protection this summer!
Should we be calling time on screentime?
It might be tempting to shout NO to summer screentime and chuck all devices in the bin, but – there are some things you should consider first:
Screentime activities like gaming can be a hobby, a source of fun, and, similar to social media, is a big (and important) part of how younger generations feel connected to the world.
A ban on ALL screen time may not work and could be counterproductive (even harmful, in certain cases). You don’t want to set yourself up for the same argument time and time again!
A softer approach that focuses on compromises and establishing healthy habits is more likely to be effective – and cause fewer meltdowns.
Children, young people, and screens
Managing screentime in your household doesn’t need to be about earning it as a reward. In fact, when we use screens solely as a reward, it can result in children searching for other ways to engage online without your knowledge.A shift in how we look at screens and how we manage time engaging with digital content and media is important.
Children and young people being ‘glued to the screen’ is not a new issue for parents, but the culture of entertainment and social interactions has changed so much over the last few years that it is certainly a much bigger challenge. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s lives have adapted to include more screen time as a necessity for meeting their educational, social, and entertainment needs. So how do we say, “Back away from the Xbox! Step away from the screens!” without disregarding their feelings about the devices that have become a lifeline for some children.
Screentime vs Summertime
Firstly – this is not a competition. Encouraging and developing healthy habits is key to gaining the most from our screens while maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the offline world. In doing so, everyone wins!
Believe it or not, it is not necessary to have a set amount of screentime for any individual. This can be difficult to manage (and even more difficult to adhere too!) and could cause needless arguments or stress. There will be times this summer when it suits everyone for children to have more screentime – and that is fine! If the balance shifts to include more screentime one day, it may be helpful to try and engage in more offline activities the next. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is not sustainable or helpful to anyone.
Have a go at completing our activities and suggestions below to evaluate how you balance your online and offline activities as a family. This might be a good opportunity to talk about the digital content and media those in your care are engaging with, and establish some consistent routines to allow for healthier screen habits all around!
A Note to the Parents of Teenagers
If you’re thinking of ways to entertain teenagers offline, remember to consider what their hobbies, likes, and dislikes are. Board games and family movie nights might be great for the adults and younger children, but could illicit a less than enthusiastic response from teenagers. Between the changes to their screentime routine and the usual challenges (like hormones), prepare to be adaptable. For example: if you’re doing a movie night (with phones off) then let them choose the movie or the snacks, as a way to actively involve them. In a situation where you’re removing their sense of control by taking away or reducing screentime, it’s important to give back some sense of ownership to your teen.
How to have conversations about screentime
Summertime presents us with opportunities for important conversations with children and young people about healthy habits, what they enjoy doing online, and how we can help them to be safer on digital platforms.
So this summer, why not commit to being intentional by getting involved and staying interested. Here are some simple tips and inspirations to help you have those conversations, whether it’s your first time approaching the topic or your fifty-first!
Be intentional – Take the opportunities that summer presents to engage. Learn a little more about the popular platforms and games those in your care are using or exploring this summer. Some of these platforms may have parental controls, safety settings, and reporting functions that are important to know about. You can use our online safety shareables and our safety centre to help you enable these and learn more.
Get involved – Consider downloading your own apps (social media platforms, games, lifestyle tools) even if your young person doesn’t use it. You don’t have to be an expert on every platform, but engaging in one will give you a greater level of understanding on how social media platforms and games work. You may even see why those in your care have difficulty staying away from screens!
Be curious, not confrontational – In the regular conversations you have with your children and young people about online behaviours, approach questions out of interest instead of from your own angle. For example: “What do you enjoy doing online?” or “That game looks fun. I would love to know how it works. Could you tell me more?”
Manage screentime -Review your family’s screentime habits by using our activity pack to facilitate your family discussion. Agree together on what good summer screen time habits are. Remember to avoid comparison with other families! It’s alright to get inspiration and learn from others, but every family context will be different.
Be accountable – Check in regularly with everyone in your household throughout the summer. New habits can sometimes take longer to form, and we all need encouragement, support, and accountability, no matter what age we are.
Lead the way – Believe it or not, adults spend nearly as much time online and on their devices as their children and young people. In fact, some statistics show nearly half of us spend a combined 11 hours a day looking at screens! Whether it’s monitoring the amount of time you spend scrolling on your phone, agreeing not to look at devices during family meal time, or voicing your opinion on social media – always remember your children are looking to you as an example.
To promote a better relationship with our screens and devices, we have released a Family Activity pack. This is based on the very latest research and is full of fun and exciting ways to promote healthy screen time habits – for the whole family!