50 families share their current concerns and main successes managing time online. Plus a downloadable conversation sheet.
As an expert in digital wellbeing, I am always giving advice to schools, businesses and parents on how to manage screen time in a safe and healthy way. But, as we all know, times have changed drastically over the past few months. Time online has doubled in many families. People are connected more than ever, especially kids.
Families today are in a real pressure cooker and like any advice, it is easier said than done. So, we also wanted to see what parents and kids are worried most about right now and get their tips on managing online safety and achieving balance. What really works? To find out, we got together with Kidscape, the bullying prevention charity in the U.K., to run a survey of 50 parents and a series of focus groups.
Here are the results we think you’ll be able to relate to, and read on to download the family activity sheet designed specifically to help facilitate the right kind of reflection and conversations in your home.
What are families most concerned about?
- Parents feel hypocritical limiting their children’s time online, as they too are more glued to screens than ever, working from home and staying connected to friends and family via zoom.
- Parents and their children find it harder to cut back on screen time as their sports and social activities are cut off or limited. Only-children expressed suffering even more as their interaction with others of a similar age is now solely through the internet.
- Teenagers are quite aware of how much time they spend online, and don’t like it. They feel like they often waste time, procrastinate or get distracted from more important things and want better guidance on how to stay in control.
- Both boys and girls recognised the negative effect that time online can have on their self confidence, often as a result of social comparison. Girls were more likely to pay excessive attention to producing the perfect picture, or tracking ‘likes’. Boys were more concerned by the pull of gaming, causing them to miss out on other activities.
- Parents are concerned that screen-time’s negative effect on their child’s mood and behaviour, that impacts sleeping patterns, and leads to health issues like eye strain and headaches.
- Some parents also mentioned that online life was leading to more arguments, negatively impacting self-esteem and exposing their children to the risk of cyber-bullying.
- Everyone mentioned the risk of social exclusion – it's easier to cut someone out of an online circle, than a physical space at school.
- Some teenagers felt their parent’s couldn’t understand their online world and turned to their peers for advice instead.
- Parents felt particularly concerned with the rate of change, struggling to keep up with the latest apps, or hacks their children were using to bypass controls.
- Though kids craved limits, they viewed parents that apply stricter levels around privacy and access to social media as overprotective. On that note, many parents still felt like they weren’t sufficiently informed to impose restrictions fairly.
- Some teenagers thought online risks such as grooming or child exploitation for sex or crime, were not relevant for them.
What screen-time tips are working for families right now?
- Having open conversations about technology. Parents who had managed to stay better informed and in control of their own relationship with technology were better equipped to do this, making it more likely that families could agree on screen time and appropriate content rules.
- Setting limits on mobile devices in certain areas, for example, banning phones upstairs (for all family members) and at the dinner table.
- Setting time limits on daily screen-time. Using parental controls to do help keep these consistent.
- Doing spot checks on online activity. For older children this can backfire, so families noted more success having open conversations and respecting their child’s right to privacy in the context of a trusting relationship.
In the end, what works now for families, is what has always worked for families – consistent rules and routines that feel fair because they have been talked about and agreed to by everybody and because they apply to everybody. However finding the right moment to talk and knowing how to structure that talk can be tricky. To make it easy to have these conversations in your home, Qustodio & Kidscape have created a family activity sheet that works. Download it now and set aside an hour of time to look at it together with your family this weekend.