Many children enjoy playing video or computer games, messaging friends or watching their favourite films or TV programmes. With households in the UK averaging more than nine connected devices, including a TV, smartphone, tablet and video games console, many kids have quick and easy access to an electronic device. Screen time has become a staple part of many young people's daily routines. But with so many digital distractions now, it can be hard to get kids to unplug and spend more time away from their screens.
We’ve put together a guide to help parents and their children manage screen time to make the most out of time on and offline.
Related: Screen time for kids
How can I control my child's screen time?
Limiting screen time isn't about spoiling kids' fun. That's why it's always a good idea to have open and honest conversations with your children about why you want to reduce their screen time. Kids are more likely to resist if they don't understand the reasons behind the changes and may just see it as a punishment. If you aren't sure of the best way to manage your child's screen time or how to curb the amount of time they spend on their electronic devices, we've put together some tips to help you manage or reduce screen time for your kids:
Be present during screen time
Younger children typically benefit more from watching educational programmes when adults watch with them and talk about what's going on. For older children and teenagers, TV programmes, films, and video games can spark meaningful conversations about current news events or family values, or even create the chance for family bonding. Being present during screen time also helps to keep children safe as you can quickly intervene if you spot anything that might not be age-appropriate.
Explain why you're limiting screen time
When children understand why you want to limit screen time and the downside of having too much, they're more likely to cooperate with the new rules. But, if they just think you're being unreasonable, they're less likely to do as you ask. Talk to them about your concerns and ask them what they think about the time they spend on their devices. Chat to them about what other fun things they could do instead — they may actually start to look forward to unplugging.
Make screen time a privilege
Some parents choose to make screen time a privilege that can be earned rather than an automatic right. It's entirely down to what works for each family. You might find screen time works well as a treat or reward for completed chores.
Plan screen-free times
Get the family together and agree on times when screens aren't permitted. This might be after school, at mealtimes or at certain times during the weekend. You may even decide to use screen-free time as an opportunity for the family to get together and spend quality time doing an activity with all screens - including those belonging to parents - put away. There's no right or wrong way to schedule screen-free time. It's about what works best for your family.
Use parental controls
There are tools available on most TVs, web browsers and routers that enable you to prevent your children from accessing mature content on the TV or internet; parental controls can also be set up on Apple devices as well as on Android ones. You might also be able to set time limits so your children can only access their devices for a designated period.
Related: Best apps to control screen time
Encourage other (non-screen) activities
Encourage your kids to find other activities that don't require a screen. A few simple ideas include reading a book, doing a jigsaw puzzle, building something out of Lego, playing in the garden or getting out an old board game. This can also help your family establish a schedule that everyone can follow for non-screen time.
Set a good example
Children tend to model their behaviour on their parents. Therefore, be mindful of how much time you spend on screens and devices in your children's company. If they see you constantly scrolling through your phone, they may think it's perfectly acceptable to be on their device constantly. But, if they see you doing other things such as reading a book, they may very well decide to follow your lead.
Keep your kids' bedrooms screen-free
You can't monitor your children's screen use if they use it in another room. Have all devices, including TVs, computers, video game consoles and any handheld devices, in the main living area where you can keep an eye on them.
Can I control my child's screen time from my phone?
Screen-time tracking or parental control apps can help you monitor your child's screen time from your phone. Use these apps as a way of gathering information to determine whether you're happy with the amount of screen time your child has. You can then decide whether you want to set limits on what family members can access and for how long. This can be particularly useful if you have older children and teenagers who have their own devices. Use the apps as a way to start conversations with your kids about screen use and get them involved in deciding what is reasonable and which apps are appropriate for them. Three examples of screen time monitoring apps are:
- Norton Family Parental Control (for iPad, iPhone and Android)
- ESET Parental Control (for Android)
- FamiSafe – Parental Control (for iPad, iPhone and Android)
There are also other ways how to keep your child safe on their phone.
How much screen time should kids have?
A clear sign that your kids might be having too much screen time is if it interferes with their other activities like family time, homework and sleep. However, the World Health Organization recommendations for daily screen time for children aged under 5 are:
- Under 1: no screen time
- 1 to 2 years old: no screen time
- 2 years old: maximum of one hour screen time
- 3 to 4 years old: maximum of one hour screen time
For children aged 5 to 17, researchers suggest a maximum of two hours a day of screen time. Ultimately, the amount of screen time that's healthy for your children is up to you.
Learn more about parental control features with GoHenry
When you set up a GoHenry account, you have access to a great range of parental control features that will give you peace of mind and help you support your children's money management. For instance, you can set a range of limits:
- ATM transaction limit
- How much can be spent in one transaction
- How much can be spent each week
- Where the GoHenry prepaid debit card for kids can be used (online, in-store and ATM)
You'll also receive real-time notifications about your kids' spending, including what they've purchased and how much they've spent. If you have any concerns, you can immediately block and unblock their card from your parent account. Parents can easily change the limits on their child's account by logging in to their GoHenry parent account and going to the Rules’ page.