Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they see around them, so it’s crucial that we as parents and trusted adults set a good example whenever we’re at home - especially in the way we use our screens and devices. We worry about making sure our children are ready for a mobile phone, but we’re the ones who have to decide what ‘ready’ looks like.
With this in mind, here are some tips to help you become a role model for healthy, balanced screen use and online behaviour.
Accentuate the positive
It can be easy to feel anxious or scared when it comes to children and their relationships with screens, but keep in mind that the internet can be a hugely positive tool. Your children are growing up in a time where they can find any information they want with just a few mouse clicks and button presses!
Get the whole family to unplug
Striking a balance between screen time and other activities early on is crucial, and the best way to set a good example is together! Choose ‘screen-free’ times like meal times where everyone puts their devices down. Start a ‘bedtime ritual’ for your child’s electronics before their real bedtime, and keep all screens out of the bedroom.
Discuss, don’t dictate
Setting boundaries can be useful, but sometimes children will try to test them. Instead of telling your child “No more than one hour of screen time a day,” try asking them how much time they
think they should be allowed. Often, their answer will be surprisingly reasonable. To make them feel more involved, you can write up a family agreement
for everybody to sign.
Ask for their permission before you post
Even if your children don’t have their own social media accounts yet, you should always check before uploading that photo of them in the adorable sailor outfit from when they were three. This will help them to realise their own autonomy, and that it’s OK to say ‘no’ to anything that they’re not comfortable with.
Check your privacy settings
Sometimes you’ll need a helping hand to set a good example, and your devices can actually help you here. Parental controls and privacy settings can be a handy way to guide your child’s screen use and keep them safe. Our Online Safety Guide includes details on how to change settings for all major apps and devices. You can also turn off app notifications to stop any unwelcome distractions - again, the key is to discuss these settings with your child.
Understand your child’s interests
If you want to know more about the apps and games your child interacts with regularly, just ask them! Taking an interest will encourage children to be more open about what they’re up to, and playing with them can be a great way to spend quality time together.
Always take the high road
When someone online says something rude or upsetting to us, it can be tempting to snap back at them, but this could encourage children’s aggression both online and offline. Try to react calmly, and if something is really upsetting then block or report the user instead.
Be open about your mistakes
Nobody’s perfect, and even the best of us will occasionally realise we’ve been mindlessly scrolling through our Twitter feed for the past 20 minutes. Encourage your children to call you out when they see you being unhealthy in your screen use, and they’ll hopefully start to become more self-aware about their own.