Happy New Year from everyone at Natterhub!
The new year is all about making changes and turning corners, which feels more relevant than ever in 2021. And among the promises to take up extreme kayaking or learn to play the banjo, we reckon a lot of you will have resolved to have a better relationship with your screens this year.
With this in mind, we’ve come up with a few New Year’s resolutions to help you have a more healthy and balanced screen diet. Hopefully, these are easy enough that you can keep them going not just through January, but the rest of 2021 and beyond.
Always ask: “Am I doing something active?”
When it comes to screen time, quality is always more important than quantity, and you should always make sure that the majority of your screen time is active, not passive
. Active screen time is something that engages your brain more fully, whereas passive screen time involves just sitting and watching. Creative tasks like writing or drawing, doing research for homework and talking to family members over Zoom are all examples of active screen time.
Take regular screen breaks
Even if your screen time is mostly active, sitting in front of devices all day can start to take a toll on your body. Most doctors suggest taking at least a 15-minute break for every two hours you spend in front of a screen. We also recommend you use that time to get away from your devices entirely - leave them at home and take a walk out in the fresh air, if you’re able to. Talk to your children about the importance of their hobbies and interests which don’t involve a screen, and how it’s important to put some time aside for them.
Put your devices to bed early
The blue light that’s given off by screens can upset your circadian rhythm, or your body’s ‘internal clock’. It does this by reducing the amount of melatonin - the chemical that tells your body to sleep - which gets released into your bloodstream. Most devices now come with a filter to get rid of blue light, but we still recommend you turn all your screens off an hour before bed so your body has time to adjust and start powering down.
Make a family agreement
We know that getting children to stick to limits on their screen time can feel like trying to nail jelly to a wall, but we find that leading by example
is the best way to make those good habits stick. Sit down with your children and agree on rules and limits on screen time you all think are fair, and then you can all keep an eye on each other. You can find an example of a family agreement in our Resources page
Set an allowance for in-app purchases
Open the Settings app, go to Family Sharing and tap on Ask To Buy. You can also turn off in-app purchases on a child’s device by going to Content & Privacy Restrictions, then tapping iTunes & App Store Purchases and selecting Don’t Allow.
In the Google Play Store, go to Settings and select Require Authentication For Purchases. You’ll be asked to enter a password, or use a fingerprint for authentication.
If you want to teach your children to value these in-app purchases a little better, you could also give them a ‘virtual allowance’ - allow them to spend a limited amount on their favourite game or app once they’ve done all their chores or finished their homework.
Pay attention to your devices’ wellbeing settings
Many apps are designed to hold our attention for as long as possible, but a lot of newer devices also include a whole range of tools to help you take back control. Most Apple and Android phones now let you toggle notifications so that your favourite apps can’t bother you every minute of the day. There are also tools that allow you to see how much time you and your children are spending on each app, and even set individual time limits.
Talk with your children about the risks of being online
There are lots of opportunities for fun online, but it’s also important to have a serious discussion about what to do when things go wrong. Children need to know that they can talk to you as a trusted adult
, and having little chats now means they’ll feel confident in coming to you with the really big stuff. In particular, be sure they know what to do if someone asks them to share images of themselves - a good rule of thumb is to not photograph anything between your neck and your knees.
Finally, if your child does make a mistake, don’t take their devices away to punish them. This will only shut down the conversation and make it less likely that your child will tell you about any problems they have.