When it comes to children having access to the internet, the results are mixed. On a large scale, it has become a convenient medium of education, learning, making connections and finding hobbies.
On the other end of the spectrum, internet addiction has become a concerning reality among children and young adults.
There is also an added concern regarding children leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles. With more time spent sitting in front of a screen, the risk of health problems, such as obesity and weight gain, increases.
Even though parents are valid in their concerns for their child’s health, there is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to screen time. As times change and different forms of content become more popular, patterns of internet usage and screen time evolves.
How Much Internet is Too Much Internet?
It’s quite difficult to set guidelines and recommend a threshold time for when the internet becomes too much. However, there are some cues parents can utilise to detect whether their children are spending too much time on their devices.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) suggests a list of questions families can use to determine if they need to limit screen time for their children.
These questions include the following:
- Is internet usage and screen time-controlled?
- Is family time being compromised due to screen time?
- Is it interfering with sleep schedules?
- Can your children control snacking while using the internet?
In addition to these questions, the following might be signs of internet overindulgence.
- Preference to spend time online instead of with friends and family
- Constantly checking phones and devices
- Staying online longer than intended originally
- Lying about time spent online
- Sneaking around to use the internet at night or when adults aren’t paying attention
- Pulling all-nighters using the web
- Becoming angry or irritable upon being interrupted or asked to log off
- Procrastinating or ignoring chores and/or homework to spend time online
Think about setting up simple rules for your child to allow him/her to get some screen time but within boundaries. Communicate the need for mutual respect and adherence to rules.
Here are some additional tips you can use:
- Set an example yourself. If you’re glued to your screen, your children will likely model your behaviour thinking it’s okay since the adults do it
- Instead of just being authoritative, explain why you are setting a time limit. Set a schedule for when the Wi-Fi device turns on and off or designate a few hours throughout the day where everyone puts their screens down and spend some quality time together
- Similarly, agreeing on device-free zones may help. For instance, make it a rule to keep all the devices away from the table during meals
- If your children are very young, accompany them when they are using their devices. You can discover applications, websites or games that are both entertaining and productive, limiting access to mindless consumption of content
Lastly, an honest conversation about internet usage and how it might impact their physical health, along with other areas in their life, can be effective as well, especially if your child is a little bit older. Mutual respect and open communication with some rules set by you can go a long way.