How children mirror our digital habits

Qustodio team

Qustodio team

Experts in digital safety

Tips to help your child stay safe during the back to school period

How many times a day do children hear “You’re just like your mother,” or “You talk exactly like your father”? Of course, while genetics play a big part in family resemblance, the secret behind shared behaviors could also be down to things called mirror neurons. First discovered in 1996 at the Italian University of Parma, mirror neurons are a type of nerve cell that encourage us to follow, or imitate the behavior we witness in others. 


With this in mind, how conscious we are of our behavior around our little ones becomes even more important: the first three years of a child’s life heavily shape their development, and this is also true of their development in the digital world. Children learn many behaviors from their parents – and a study published in Child Development demonstrates they may be learning some more “antisocial” behaviors from those around them. The study, involving 170 families with at least one child at an average age of 3, revealed how often digital devices disrupt their time together as a family.


Almost half of families (48%) reported that their smartphone, computer, or tablet interferes with the time they spend with their children: up to three or more times a day, compared to just 11% who asserted that such interruptions would never happen. Mirror neurons encourage us to mirror the behavior we witness in others, and in the case of children, behavior is often directly learned from important figures in their life such as parents – so it’s more important than ever that we are aware of the way we use technology around our children. 

Technology tips to help with the back to school routine

Qustodio’s recommendations for technology use around children

At Qustodio, we’re parents ourselves: and we understand that growing and learning as a family in an ever-connected world can be challenging. These are our recommendations to help you and your family follow a more healthy digital lifestyle, based on research and real family experiences. 

  • Lead by example

Neuroscientists and psychologists affirm that children learn things in two ways: trial and error and through observation. This is where mirror neurons come into play, where children begin to understand how to interact with their environment based on what their peers – in this case their parents – do. 

  • Digital disconnection at home is a must

Ensuring daily time away from screens is important, although we understand that this can often be difficult, especially now that the workplace has become a huge part of home life. Working from home is now becoming increasingly more common for companies, and according to research from The University of South Australia, 55% of workers sent some form of digital communication to colleagues in the evening, and 30% on weekends. Turning off our electronic devices, respecting work schedules and dedicating more time to other outdoor activities can have a beneficial influence on our children. 

  • Make use of time management strategies

When looking at our own insights, 37% of Qustodio families do not set a time limit on the use of screens at home. In 2020, screen time usage in under-16s was higher than ever: up by 76% for social networks, 49% for communication applications, 25% for online video platforms and 23% for video games. By setting time limits, either through use of a parental control tool, or a daily schedule that works for your family, you’ll be able to understand just how much time you are all spending behind screens. 

  • Use tools to secure your family’s digital safety 

In a recent study by the Spanish National Market and Competitor Commission (CNMC), 74% of parents asserted that they knew that parental control tools existed, but only 1 in 10 families stated they made use of them. Smart use of technology, including tools that help manage your child’s screen time while also protecting their devices can be a great resource for parents, while supporting your whole family to value your digital wellbeing.