Kids and internet access – Part 1: screen time

In today’s digital age, it’s impossible to avoid screens. As a parent, it’s important to understand the impact that screen time can have on kids and to set guidelines to ensure they use technology in a healthy and safe manner. In this blog post, we will explore what screen time is, why it’s important to control, and how to help your kids make the most of their screen time while avoiding its negative effects.

What is screen time?

Screen time refers to the amount of time a person spends looking at screens, including televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, and gaming devices. The impact of screen time on children and teenagers is a hot topic and has received a lot of attention in recent years.

Should TV be included in screen time?

Yes, TV should be included in screen time. This includes traditional televisions, smart TVs, casting devices, and YouTube apps built into the TV. While there’s no doubt that TV can be a valuable source of entertainment and education for kids, it’s important to monitor the amount of time they spend watching it and the content they’re exposed to.

On-demand streaming services and their effects on kids

On-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, have become increasingly popular in recent years. While these services offer a wide range of content, they can also make it harder for kids to switch off at the end of an episode or show. Some streaming services automatically play the next episode or show, which can make it difficult for kids to know when it’s time to stop. Parents can check their service’s settings to see if they can switch off this feature.

Teaching kids self-control and identifying good-quality content

It’s important for parents to help their kids identify good-quality TV programs, movies, apps, and games. Good-quality digital media can be educational and entertaining and can help kids develop important skills and interests. Poor-quality digital media, on the other hand, has few benefits. For example, kids won’t get much out of spending time alone watching animations that include ads for toys or unhealthy foods.

Guidelines and how kids are using screens today

The Australian 24-hour movement guidelines for the early years (birth through to five years) and children and young people (5–17 years) were introduced in 2018 and provide guidelines for screen time. The guidelines recommend:

  • no screen time for children younger than two years
  • no more than one hour per day for children aged 2–5 years
  • no more than two hours of sedentary recreational screen time per day for children and young people aged 5–17 years (not including schoolwork).

However, most Australian children spend more time on screens than is recommended. Studies suggest only 17-23% of pre-schoolers and 15% of 5-12-year-olds meet screen-time guidelines. Screen time has also been shown to increase between the ages of 10 and 14, especially among boys. The types of screen-time that increased was electronic gaming for boys and TV, computer use, and social networking for girls.

Is this a real issue, should we be concerned about?

Yes, it’s a real issue that parents should be concerned about. Excessive screen time can have negative effects on children’s physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as their academic performance. By setting guidelines and helping kids make the most of their screen time, parents can ensure that technology has a positive impact on their kids’ development and wellbeing.

Free technology solutions for screen time Management

Activate device parental control features:

Most devices have parental control features that allow for screen time tracking and management. For example, Family Link for Android devices, Screen Time for iOS devices, and Chromecast all have parental control features that can help limit screen time.

IOS Screen time setup
Android provide Family link app to control screen time
Nintendo switch parental controls

Turn off device WiFi access from router:

This is a simple solution that can be achieved through routers that have the option to disconnect device WiFi when certain usage thresholds are reached. Routers like Google WiFi Mesh and Amazon eero can also restrict access to YouTube or social media. This can be a useful option for parents who want to limit their kids’ access to specific websites.

Google Mesh router can disconnect kids devices from internet
Amazon EERO router can disconnect devices (additional features inside subscription i.e. Ad Blocking & content filtering)

In conclusion, setting up parental controls is an essential step to ensuring your children’s safety while they use the internet. By controlling the amount of screen time, restricting access to inappropriate content, and teaching kids how to identify good-quality digital media, parents can provide a safe and healthy online environment for their kids.

While free parental control features can be limited to specific devices or ecosystems, they are still a great starting point for families with young children. By using tools like Family Link for Android devices or Apple Screen Time for iOS devices, you can easily set up and manage screen time, content filtering, and other safety features.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these tools may not be suitable for families with kids who use a variety of devices, and may not provide the level of control and aggregation of data that some families need. Nevertheless, these options are easy to set up and provide valuable controls within the home environment for children under 10 years old.

Ultimately, by taking an active role in managing kids’ internet use, parents can help them make the most of technology while staying safe online.