Managing the screen time battle – our top tips for parents

If you’re a parent we’re willing to bet there’s a 99.9% chance your children have used a connected device like a smartphone or a tablet. With a growing number of personal devices in our homes, and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programmes running in schools, there’s no denying screens are here to stay. For some kids, using the Internet is now simply part of the way that they play – they watch their favourite superhero online first before dressing up in character themselves, or learn how to make slime on YouTube while they are busy making it in ‘real life’.

The opportunities for learning, development and play online are vast, but there’s plenty of discussion around the risks too. We asked parents who work at Chorus to share their top tips for managing screen time and keeping kids safe online. Here’s what they had to say:

On educating your kids:

  • “I think the biggest tip for online safety is to discuss with them from a young age about the huge range of people and stuff online, how to recognise if something’s risky, what to do if they come across something scary or worrying, how and why not to give out personal info, what addiction might look/feel like etc.”
  • “We’ve taught them about how to be safe online: never give out their name or address to people online, let us know if they ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable.”

On creating agreed household ‘device rules’:

  • “All devices get turned off before bed and are placed in a central area in the corner of our living room to be charged overnight and we switch off our WiFi every night too. We started doing this when the kids were younger and they first started getting into devices. Now as teenagers they still respect it – so far anyway.”
  • “Best tip: create rules together. They’re the ones that are most likely to be respected.”
  • “We have a policy of no electronics in the bedrooms – this goes for parents and children and all devices are charged overnight in a docking station in dining room far, far away.”
  • “To be “present” we parents first put away our devices and our kids naturally followed. Turns out they still actually enjoy interacting with us.”

On limiting screen time:

  • “During school term we limit screen time to the weekend only and only if chores are done and behaviour has been appropriate. For us screen time is a privilege and has to be earnt.”
  • “My kids are told they can only go on iPads in the mornings once they are up, dressed, have eaten and their schoolbags are ready to go. In the evenings, we have a ‘no screens at the dining table’ rule.”
  • “We allow our kids 20 minutes of iPad games a day max with an optional 10 more minutes if they do extra chores. This excludes educational games like maths, writing, reading, and programming.”
  • “No screen time less than an hour before bed – lots of research says this interrupts sleep patterns much more for young kids than adults.”
  • “Make sure you can see the screen so you know they are not going anywhere funny.”

On using technology/parental controls:

  • “My husband set up a parental control on our modem between certain times during the week and weekend where all devices that my children use are no longer able to access the internet and that also includes their mobile data. It is great although they do complain. We also have setup passwords on our devices so they are not able to log into those once we go to bed!”
  • openDNS. You set your router to use the openDNS servers for DNS and they filter the requests based on what you think is permissible or not. If you don’t like that then you could use quad9 which blocks malicious sites, but that doesn’t do any content filtering.”
  • “We use a service called Safe Surfer. You change the DNS setting in your router so that all web requests, regardless of what device in the home is being used are sent to their DNS server where they are screened and blocked if they contain adult/objectionable content. It’s not perfect but it goes some way towards blocking content you’d rather they weren’t looking at.”
  • “Our tablet has a kid’s mode and so my 5 year old daughter can use that to access kid only apps like the kid’s version of YouTube. We can set a time limit so it turns off after 30 minutes.”

These are just some of the tips Chorus people had to share. For more information about keeping kids safe online, check out Netsafe.

 

 

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