Internet Safety for Kids: 8 Screen Time Tips

With screens all around us in the form of TVs, phones and tablets, monitoring your child’s screen time can be challenging. Moreover, internet resources can help with your child’s educational and social development. 

How do you manage your child’s screen time to ensure their internet usage remains safe and healthy? How do you balance what has become popular practice with what research says is best for your kids? This article explains 8 tips to guide your child’s screen use.

Consequences of Unregulated Screen Time Among Children

Allowing your child screen time on demand can be both tempting and dangerous. It can create complications with the child’s cognitive, social, and problem solving skills. 

The side effects of too much screen time are as follows:

  • Insufficient sleep
  • Irregular sleep schedules
  • Obesity, poor self-image and body image issues
  • Reduced interest in reading books
  • spending less time outside
  • inattentiveness
  • Lower school grades 
  • Narrowing scope of interests
  • Mood or attention disorders
  • Delays in language and 
  • Poor social skills development
  • Incuriosity 
  • Violence

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Getting The Most Out of Your Kid’s Screen Time

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Screen times are not equal. When your child plays educational computer games and puzzles, they benefit more than when they’re just scrolling through social media and chatting with friends. Watch out for internet activities that offer serious benefits to your children and introduce them to such, especially as alternatives to the time-draining ones they are interested in. 

There are different educational resources on the internet where they can have a lot of fun while learning. Setting a goal for your child’s screen time will help you to make the most of it. Here are things you can do to ensure their safety on the internet:

  • Preview the content yourself to ensure it is age-appropriate
  • Subscribe to ad-free educational shows and child care programmes 
  • Create a time to watch and discuss with your children 
  • Ask for feedback when you aren’t available to watch with them
  • Discuss online privacy and safety tips with your children.
  • Encourage them toward internet use that fosters human connectivity and creativity
  • Provide alternatives to screen time

8 Tips for Balanced and Healthy Internet Use for Kids

Tip 1 Set screen time rules

Your child’s safety on the internet begins with their knowledge of what constitutes safe use from abuse. Help your child to understand the balance and relationship between screen time and other activities and commitment in their days. Create an internet usage plan for your family and ensure everyone knows how to conduct themselves. The rules should cover these areas:

When to use screens – Do they get to take their phones to their bedroom or they have to submit it some minutes before bedtime? Are mealtimes screen-free time or are they free to swallow and scroll? Set these rules and discuss them with them.

Where your child can use screens – Do they take their phones to school or it remains at home during school hours? Can they use it in the family rooms or and in the car?

What your child can use screens to do – Is it okay for them to use it to make animations but not to play Fortnite? Are they allowed to use it to check for outdoor game techniques but not to join an online community of players?

How your child uses screens – What rules guide their usage? Can they call a parent that is far away only with supervision? Can an older child play certain games only when their younger sibling is asleep or out? Is there a time limit for screen times? Are there screen-free days? 

Draw up a family screen guide that takes your family situation into consideration. Remember to balance the guide with other recommended physical activities for children like running, jumping and other outdoor games.

Tip 2 Target short screen time sessions

Children need moderate or intense physical activities depending on their age group. Rationing their screen time provides ample opportunity for them to engage in these other useful activities. Encourage your child to take a break from the screen every 30 minutes and to use the screen in short bursts. Here are tips to ration your child’s screen time:

  • Install reminder apps on devices
  • Fix a physical activity during timer breaks
  • Use natural breaks for intermissions. For instance, you can encourage your child to do their victory lap for conquests in games

Tip 3 Design a play time plan

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Children need physical activities on a daily basis to grow healthily. You can insert your child’s physical playtime with their screen use time so that both happen simultaneously. The NHS recommends these physical activity guidelines for children under 5 years:

Babies (below 1 year)

Babies are encouraged to stay active throughout the day. Their physical activities include crawling, grasping, pulling, reaching, pushing, and various body movements. If your babies can move around, make sure they are physically active in a secure and monitored environment

Toddlers ( 1 to 2 years)

Toddlers are required to have a minimum of 3 hours of physical activity daily. The playtime should be spread across the day. Recommended activities include running, jumping, riding a bike, hopping, skipping, playing in water, moving around, climbing and chasing.

Pre-schoolers (3 to 4 years)

They are also required to have a minimum of 3 hours of physical activity daily. 1 of the 3 hours should be dedicated to moderate-high intensity physical activities. The playtime should include both active and outdoor play spread throughout the day.

The NHS recommends these physical activity guidelines for children and young people aged 5 to 18:

  • Spend an average time of 1 hour on moderate or high intensity physical activity daily
  • Participate in physical activities that aim to develop motor skills, build muscles and strengthen the bones.
  • Spread the physically active time throughout the day such that there is no extended period of lying down or sitting

Tip 4 Encourage play and friendship with others

Children develop important life skills when they play face to face with their peers. They learn to get along with people, solve problems, manage their emotions, handle conflicts and develop compassion. You can get the ball rolling to help them bond with friends by organising playdates and sleepovers. 

Tip 5 Get creative

It is good that your child has the option of playing with their friends and getting physically active. But you can also get your foot in the game through creative ideas that help you spend more time with your children. It’s a win-win scenario that helps to deepen your bond with them as they develop healthy use of technology. 

What do you think about a family cosplay tradition? How about Friday night storytime? You know what interests your child. Give it to them and watch them ditch the screen for your attention.

Tip 6 Avoid bedtime screen time 

Using screens before bedtime can mess up a child’s inner clock. It also doesn’t help if they drop their phones, tablets or hibernate the PC a few minutes to bedtime as they may spend the next hour musing on the last content they consumed or game they played. Training your child to avoid screens 1 hour before they hit the sack can help them sleep more quickly and deeply.

Tip 7 Filter internet access

More parents know about parental controls than they put them to use. Filtering your child’s access to the internet and restricting their access to certain sites and content can help auto-regulate their screen time. 

The goal of exercising parental control, among other things, is to help your child avoid the pitfall into content they may not have the maturity to handle or do without. 

Tip 8 Get feedback

No matter how much you have done, there will be cracks, and a lot can seep in. This is why you need to gain your child’s trust in the general sense. Encourage them to open up to you when they encounter unusual activity on the internet. 

Regularly ask them about the games, programmes and apps they play, watch or use. Watch programmes with them, discuss and educate them. Start conversations with them about internet safety and listen to their opinions on the matter. 

Safety Begins with You

You can make the rules and follow the tips, but if you fail to model good screen time behaviour yourself, your children are likely to also develop poor screen time habits. For instance, if you want them to build solid friendships and develop a healthy rapport with their friends, do you have friends of your own? 

If you want them to stay without their phone on the dinner table, do you receive calls while eating? Do you placate your child with the screen? If you find it difficult to cultivate or enforce a healthy screen time habit, your example will be the biggest threat to their obedience. 

You can monitor your internet usage and restrict access to apps at certain times so that when you advise your children to do the same, they will not struggle to listen.

Screen time is a 21st century staple. When used responsibly, it is good for children’s growth and development. Remember that it is never too early to design a screen time plan for your kids. 

If you need professional help developing an age-appropriate screen plan for your children, call: (07723) 317-770 or book a visit.

Nursery School Gillingham, UK