Here are a few tips to keep in mind when thinking about setting up your screen time rules.
- Stick to the rules Rule number one – stick to the rules! Breaking the rules you set is confusing and allows room for arguments in the future. Make sure your rules are reasonable and realistic before you set them out to prevent needing to change them.
- Be clear Set rules that are simple and clear. Write them out and put them somewhere everyone can see. Go through the rules with your child and let them know when they will start.
- If this, then that If you expect homework or chores to be completed first, make it very clear what the expectations are. ‘If you do your maths homework, then you can have half an hour on your tablet’. Consistency is the name of the game and will help to create good habits.
- Give warnings Don’t just pull the plug without warning half way through a game, that’s likely to cause outbursts. Give plenty of warnings that time is nearly up. Try to be consistent in your warnings – 10 minutes and 3 minutes for instance. If they only need a few more minutes to finish a game then consider allowing that, an incomplete game may cause more stress. Using a timer is another good way to help them see how much time they have been on a game. Children may feel like hours go past in minutes and not believe you.
When thinking about ground rules for screentime it’s important to also think about internet safety, here’s a few pointers to get you started.
Ground Rules for internet use
- Discuss as a family how the internet will be used in your house. Linked adult and child phones can be used to set app limits and downtime.
- Consider what should be kept private online (personal information, photos etc) and decide rules for making and meeting online friends. Establish clear rules about acceptable language use. Overuse and consistent exposure to crude and derogatory words can desensitize children to the full impact these comments might have on others.
- Make sure you know what your child is doing online much like you would offline.
- Install antivirus software, secure your internet connection and use Parental Control functions for computers, mobile phones and games consoles to block unsuitable content or contact.
- Remember that parental control tools are not always 100% effective and sometimes unsuitable content can get past them, so don’t rely on them alone to protect your child.
- Locate your computer in a supervised family area. Always supervise the use of webcams in and applications which allow voice or video chat. Consider your child’s use of other devices that allow internet access such as mobile phones and games consoles.
- Remove electronic devices such as phones and tablets from bedrooms after “lights out”. This can lead to interrupted sleep which can have serious effects in the short and long term. Consider if you want to place your child’s games console in their room, research has shown they will be used significantly more.
- Talk to your child and ask them to show or even teach you how they use the internet, learn which websites or tools they like to use and why. Learning together can often open opportunities to discuss safe behaviour with your child.
- Always ensure your child knows how to block or report people online who send mean or inappropriate messages or content. Encourage your child not to retaliate or reply.
- Make sure your child knows to tell an adult they trust if they see something online that makes them feel scared, worried or uncomfortable.
- It’s essential to be realistic – banning the internet or technology will not work and it often makes a child less likely to report a problem. Education around safe use is essential.
Make sure you brush up your knowledge about apps, internet safety and how online games work, especially in respect to other people online. You more you know, the better you can protect your child. Find out more by having a look through some of the websites listed below.
Websites for more information:
Internet Matters https://www.internetmatters.org/
A not-for-profit organisation to empower parents and carers to keep children safe in the digital world.
Think U Know www.thinkuknow.co.uk
UK organisation with child and parent sections which offers advice to help keep children safe online and how to deal with internet based problems.
The NSPCC has this page with tools and advice for how to keep families safe.
Childnet International www.childnet.com
A non-profit organisation working with others to help make the internet a great and safe place for children.
BBC Own It https://www.bbc.com/ownit
Aimed at children, the BBC Own It app is a new, free app designed to support, help and advise children when they use their phones to chat and explore the online world.