One of the challenges for parents in connected households is managing how kids use their screens, a survey released by Telstra this week is a good reminder of how parents create an example for children when it comes to computer usage.
In December last year the telco ran an online survey asking Australian adults and children about their use of technology devices with 1,348 parents and 507 Australian children aged 12-17 responding.
Sadly the survey isn’t available online however the parents were scathing of their own performance with two thirds of the parents believing they’re not good role models when it comes to device usage. Interestingly, half the kids believed their parents were.
A generational shift
If anything, this survey describes the shifting generational changes with parents unsure about how they should be managing computers in their home, something that isn’t helped by inconsistent messages about internet and technology use coming from schools – “I need it for my homework” is the constant cry from teenagers when the computer or router is shut down.
More concerning is how many kids are on the computer late at night with the survey showing 74 per cent of children use their device between 9pm and midnight on school nights, with 39 per cent falling asleep while using their device.
How we use our computers is setting an example to our kids says Telstra’s Cyber Safety Manager, Shelly Gorr who points out the survey is a reminder to parents that they’re a key influencer on their children’s online behaviour.
“Children model their parents’ behaviour so it’s only natural for them to copy the example set by their mum or dad in relation to the way they use their device,” Gorr said. “So, for example, if it’s important to you that mealtimes are device-free, make sure you put your mobile away during dinner because children are happier if everyone in the family follows the rules.”
Gorr suggests the following tips to help manage kids’ computer time;
1. Agree limits
Talk to your children about the amount of digital time they’re living and then, based on what you agree is a healthy balance, set ‘switched off’ times of day. Help your children create a media use roster allocating blocks of time for homework, chores and their screen time.
2. Be an offline supporter
Support and encourage your kids in activities that don’t involve a digital device. A ball game or reading a book are all great ways to show kids how they can enjoy themselves without a mobile, tablet or computer.
3. Set family rules
Make sure you’re seen as a positive example. Do you want the dinner table to be a device-free zone? If so, then have everyone (including Mum and Dad) turn off their mobile phones and devices during dinner, or when taking part in family activities. Children are happier following rules if everyone in the family plays by them.
4. Turn off devices before bedtime
Lack of sleep can affect alertness, concentration and memory. For a better night’s sleep try encouraging children to switch off at least one hour before bedtime. Create a charging station and charge all household devices in the one spot overnight.
5. Make the most of parental controls
Many parental controls tools allow you to set time-of-day restrictions on children’s device usage. We recommend Telstra Smart Controls® for mobile devices and Telstra Online Security for your home network.
6. Consider the difference between types of screen time
Not all screen time is created equal. Think about the differences between using a device for homework or creative expression versus using it for passive entertainment.
One of the things that becomes clear when talking to researchers about household computer use are the changes in the family dynamic and the differences in the way age groups use technology. It’s not surprising we’re all struggling with this given the magnitude and speed of change.