Can you answer this question? Which of the following four activities is most popular with children – watching TV, going online, playing sport or reading books?
According to Ofcom research carried out last year, ‘going online’ is the correct answer.
But perhaps this comes as no surprise at all for many parents coming out of the Easter holidays wondering whether their children spent too much time glued to their smartphone, tablet or games console.
And further research by Internet Matters found that they aren’t alone in their worries – as 60% of mums and dads have revealed they are concerned their child is “showing a lack of interest in other activities compared to going online”.
The statistic is reflective of the ever-changing digital landscape and also indicates just how much parents worry that children rely on the internet as their sole source of communication, information, entertainment and development.
As a parent, I believe the figure raises two fundamental questions: How do I intervene and engage them offline and if their main interest is going on the internet; how do I ensure they are making the most of the time they’re spending online?
So here’s some handy tips to help parents make the most of their family time and re-examine their child’s online habits so they don’t face the same frustrating issues every weekend or during half-term.
If you’re struggling to have a conversation with your child without them talking into their screen – perhaps it is time to talk to them about time limits.
Firstly, you must set a good example with your own device use. Children will tend to model their behaviours on yours. If you take time away from your smartphone and get active outside, they may follow your lead.
With the arrival of the sunny weather, the weekend provides ample opportunity for outdoor family fun.
But if it’s not possible for an outdoor activity, it’s worth noting that children will also follow your everyday behaviour. If you make an effort to stay off your phone and start to read a book, they are more likely to copy.
Don’t shy away from talking about how you have concerns over the time they’re spending online. Sometimes talking about screen time can seem daunting as you and your child may differ on what you think is an appropriate amount of time to spend online.
– Carolyn Bunting
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