Managing screen time – when, where and how?

Managing screen time – when, where and how? - 31 / 03 / 2017

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One of our favourite parent blogs, Tech Age Kids has been asking readers to answer a series of questions about Kids, Parenting and Tech.

With the holidays coming up and kids out of school we thought we would take a stab at this one:

How does your family manage device usage or screen time? (Tablets, Phones, PCs, Consoles etc)

 
There are two elements to this question. The first has to do with access: where and when do we allow our kids to access screens? The second part has to do with the content our children are actually viewing. How can we monitor what exactly our kids are doing on screen?

  As background information, we have 3 children, ages 9, 7 and 2.

Where and when?


  In our house, we only allow screens where we can see what our children are doing. No screens in the bedroom, unless one of our kids is unwell. We have a specific zone in the kitchen where all devices are kept.

We also have a strict ‘no technology at the table’ rule. While I loved the Tech Age Kids piece on involving ‘Alexa’ in dinner table conversations, our family isn’t quite there yet!

We don’t allow screens on school days and we like to keep the hour before bed screen-free as well. King’s College London recently published a paper on the negative effects of screen viewing and children’s sleep.

 

How do we manage what our kids do online?


There’s a growing sophistication in the way we understand screen time. The American Paediatric Association has recently published new guidelines regarding the management of screen time at home. Furthermore, the wonderful Common Sense media has broken screen time down into four useful types:

a. Passive (eg. Viewing BBC videos)
b. Active (eg. Gaming)
c. Communication (eg. Video calls with ‘Nana’)
d. Creative (eg. Making artwork, graphics and obviously, coding!)

Our children are allowed 3 hours of screen time over the course of the weekend. We encourage this time to be as active and creative as possible. If we need to call ‘Nana’ on FaceTime, we don’t count it against their 3 hours. I also tend to be quite generous when it comes to tracking screen time minutes if my 9 year old daughter is creating art work on the computer.

It’s not a perfect system; however, the more time I spend, trying to engage with my kids when they’re using screens, the greater the chance they’ll do something productive.  I also know that everyone needs a bit of down time and that ‘vegging out’ from time to time is fine.

 

What about the scary stuff out there?

 
It’s important to remember that if you have not placed any filters or controls on your devices, your child may be able to access content online that will be scary, sexual or violent.

There is an ever-increasing number of tools available to control how, when and what our children access via screens. We are asked all the time about what parents can do to ensure that the material their children are accessing via screens is safe and age appropriate.

We are in the process of developing a ‘Parental Controls’ workshop to help parents get their devices set up in a way that allows them to breathe a bit more easily when it comes to their childrens’ screen time. We’re evaluating a large range of apps, extensions and tools, all of which parents can use to monitor and control their childrens’ online access in different ways.

Some of our favourite tools include ‘Our Pact’ for mobile, ‘Blocksi’ (a browser plug-in) and setting up your child as a ‘supervised user’ if they’re on a Chromebook. One of the most intense we’ve come across is ‘Spyrix’ which allows you to watch your child’s screen in real time!

If you’re interested in attending one of our upcoming Parental Controls workshops or (currently in beta!) please contact us at hello@blueshiftcoding.com

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