Left to their own devices - striking a balance with screen time

September 6, 2019 12:00:00 AM

Left to their own devices- striking a balance with screen time

The internet is an exciting place, full of possibilities. But it has its risks, too. At TalkTalk we’ve always been passionate about online security, including how to help keep children safe online. Recently concerns have grown around the amount of screen time children have, and its impact on them.

Our partners, Internet Matters, are an organisation committed to help parents keep their children safe online. Together we want to understand more about parent concerns, raise awareness about the issue and help parents strike the right balance with their children.

Internet Matters surveyed 2,000 parents across the UK and their findings were startling – nearly 70% believed their kids spend too much time online, while more than a third have to “fight for their attention” against devices.

And it’s not just teenagers – nearly two thirds of parents with children aged four and five are worried about excessive internet usage.

The study also suggests that screen time impacts sleep and school work, with parents of 14 to 16-year-olds particularly concerned. Half of them say their child “stays up late using their devices and it impacts on their sleep.” More than a third say that screen time is affecting homework and family time, the same number believe that screen time stops them playing outside and holds them back from making real friends, and almost twice as many people are worried about the impact of social media on their child’s mental health.

You can read the full report here.

Parents can feel overwhelmed and powerless, and as a result, more than one in ten put no restrictions at all on their children’s online time.

We are supporting Internet Matters as we want people to feel confident that their children are enjoying the many benefits of the internet, without experiencing the downside.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, ambassador of Internet Matters, recognises the dilemma facing mums and dads. They see the benefits of online access – knowledge, social interaction, entertainment – but they also see how games and websites can monopolise a child’s attention.

She suggests striking a sensible balance – setting boundaries about how much time our kids spend online, and what they do there. “It doesn’t mean they can never play games or watch their favourite gaming vloggers,” she says, and recommends involving children in the decision-making. “Ask them how they want to invest the time they have online and make sure it’s not wasted. The more you get involved and understand the things your children do online, the easier it is to influence what they do in their digital world.”

Carolyn Bunting, Chief Executive of Internet Matters, agrees. She understands the challenge facing parents, and wants to give them the tools they need to engage with what their kids do online, and to keep them safe and well. Internet Matters have created a wealth of free resources to help parents strike a healthy screen time balance, including a great list of dos and don’ts. Take a look.

So if you’re worried about screen time, rest assured that you’re not alone – and don’t worry. There’s plenty we can all do to redress the balance and ensure our kids’ screen time is measured, appropriate and as positive as possible.

With good advice, helpful resources and some simple steps, parents can help their children strike the right balance.

Head over to the Internet Matters website to find out more.