Screen Time for Teens
The World Health Organization (WHO) in April this year published a new set of guidelines for screen time for children - reinforcing our own recent focus on the monitoring of students' levels of and access to screen time. The Senior Campus prohibits students in Years 7 to 10 from using their phones during the day, along with not being able to access their laptops during recess and lunch.
As when our parents and grandparents debated the influence of radio and TV, we are now investigating the effect of screen time, whether it be our phone, laptop, tablets, desktops, TV, video games etc., on our overall health. The focus for us at the Senior Campus is on teenagers – a time where brain development is most active and a time in which their engagement with technology increases.
Why should we care?
Higher amounts of screen time may result in:
- Less time sleeping and poorer quality of sleep
- Less physical activity, leading to a higher BMI and obesity
- Poor social and intellectual development
- An increase in risk-taking behaviours, an acceptance and interpretation of what they are seeing on social media is the norm
- Concerns with mental health, less social connections and higher rates of depression
- Less opportunity to be bored - which may result in less opportunities for creativity. Boredom can spark individual productivity and creativity. Research estimates that only 3% of time spent on screens is ‘content creation’.
However, we must recognise that not all screen time is the same. But as valuable as technology can be, it's still important for kids' overall healthy development to balance their lives with enriching experiences found off screens.
How much is too much?
While some organisations stress that there is no magical number, that it depends on the type of screen time and every individual and family is different – a common recommendation is no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time - this includes watching TV or looking at a computer or phone, while excluding time spent on screens at school for educational use.
Time to change - but how?
The eSafety Commissioner offers the following seven tips:
1. Be involved
Sharing screen time and online activities like gaming with your child helps you gauge the appropriateness of what they are doing and manage potential risks. It’s also a great way to start conversations with your child about their online experiences.
2. Work with your child to set boundaries for screen use
If you decide that setting screen time limits is right for you and your child, discuss these new rules with your child. Older children are more likely to cooperate if they have been part of the decision-making process.
3. Be clear about the consequences of not switching off
Part of our role as parents is to set clear limitations and boundaries. The same applies to technology limitations, so being clear and consistent about the consequences for your child if they do not stick to these rules is paramount.
4. Set device-free zones and times at home
Device-free zones can help you manage your family’s digital use. Here are some ideas for setting digital boundaries within your home:
- no devices in the bedroom for younger children
- all screens off in bedrooms after a certain time for older children
- all screens off at least one hour before planned bedtime
- all family members switch off at dinner time
- charge devices overnight in a place your child cannot access
5. Ask your child to explain their screen use
Get your child in the habit of explaining why they want to be in front of a screen or online. It’s a great way to get them thinking about their own digital habits and balancing screen time with other activities.
6. Use tech tools to help manage access
There are robust products and device functions which allow you to see which apps are being used in your home and for how long. But try not to use these tools to secretly monitor your child. Instead, be open about the process and check the whole family’s usage, including your own. Start with Google Family Link for Android devices or parental controls and Screen Time for iPhone/iPad.
7. Lead by example
Your behaviour is one of the most effective ways to help your child develop a positive digital mindset. Show your child you can put down your device too.
- Common Sense Media: “How Much Screen Time Is OK for My Kid(s)?”
- Time: “World Health Organization Issues First-Ever Screen Time Guidelines for Young Kids. Here's What to Know”
- Growing Good Habits (Qld Govt): "Screen time guidelines"
- WHO: "To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more"
- Talks at Google: "Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age" by Dr Delaney Ruston
- Mayo Clinic Radio: "Kids and Screentime"
- Time: "Being Bored Can Be Good for You—If You Do It Right. Here’s How"
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner