Family

Four ways to manage kids' screen time this summer holiday

The digital detox starts now!

family screen time

Be honest, how many times have you handed some kind of digital device to your child to stop them from having a meltdown? Or to distract them while you run to the loo? Or put a load of washing on? Or finish some work?

Most mums have done one (if not all) of the above at some stage and, if you haven’t, we salute you. You can stop reading right now!

Screens are just as much a part of our children's life as they are ours. Recent research found that kids aged between four and five spend 2.2 hours in front of screens per day - even more on a weekend. And last year, primary schools across Australia began teaching digital coding as part of the school curriculum.

It's safe to say smart phones, tablets and other digital devices aren't going anywhere so you need to learn to adapt and make them work for you and your family, not the other way around.

Here are The Weekly's top tips to consider when it comes to your child’s digital consumption over the holiday period:

1. Set an example. As with most lessons, saying one thing and doing another can be confusing. Especially for little ones. If you're lecturing your child to get off a screen, you can’t do it with a smart phone in your hand. Children are creatures of habit and tend to follow suit so make sure you spend time with your children when you are (digitally) switched off and 100 percent present. The benefits to your child’s emotional development are significant when they are engaging directly with you.

2. Be the parent. You still own the rule book and until they are paying rent or buying their own smart phones, you have control on when (and what) they access on phones and tablets. As Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says, you are not your children’s friend, you are their parent so set boundaries. Learn to say no. In the long run, they'll love you for it - or at least they'll forget about ever throwing a tantrum when you said no to the eighth episode of Peppa Pig.

3. Set time limits. If you find setting limits gets harder to enforce once that device is in their hands, the new Foxtel Kids App is smart because it allows you to set and control screen time - anywhere between five minutes and two hours - by automatically switching off at a time that is determined by you. You can also manage what the kids watch (there's even no ads) and maintain data limits in the app, too. Clever.

4. Keep screens out of the bedroom. Setting boundaries in terms of the location of screen time can be pretty useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it helps set screen time up as a treat, not a given, and something that has to be earned with good behaviour. Secondly, any adult who's lost a few hours on Facebook will tell you that screen time can be a pretty anti-social habit so, while you can in these pre-teenage years, encourage screen time to be a family activity. They can still have quiet time watching a movie, but it's good for them to do it in a communal space where there's more chance of you being able to break the trance.

More and more smart technology is being developed to strike the right balance between entertainment and allowing a child’s imagination to really grow. And it’s helpful to know these days that some content creators and digital developers are on mum’s side when it comes to healthy consumption.

And of course, you've always got good ol' fashioned sunshine up your sleeve these holidays. It’s summer, the perfect time to get outside – and it just so happens that kids can’t see their screens very clearly in direct sunlight!

Brought to you by Foxtel Kids

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