Managing the amount of time children and young people spend in front of a screen is a concern that many parents and teachers share. Set reasonable expectations for the amount of time your child or young person is spending in front of a screen, and for the type and quality of that screen time.
It can be hard to get away from screens in our increasingly digital life. Screen time can be defined as any time spent on a device with a screen, including televisions, computers, smart phones, tablets, video games and even wearable technology such as smart watches.
National guidelines for screen time
The Australian Government, Department of Health provides recommendations for the physical activity, sedentary and sleep behaviours for children and young people. Across a 24 hour period, the following is recommended:
- infants younger than two, have no screen time
- children ages 2–5, have no more than one hour per day
- children and young people aged between 5–17 years have less than 2 hours a day of sedentary recreational screen time.
These time limits do not include the screen time spent on educational activities.
Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, Australian Government Department of Health
Strategies for moderating screen time
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner suggests that parents can help children and young people maintain a healthy balance of online and offline time by:
- having regular conversations with their children about expectations for screen time
- setting clear limits and giving them a switch off warning so they can wind up their activity
- creating a plan for the whole family so that adults are modelling balanced screen time
- offering children and young people filtered or protected internet access
- having devices in open locations so that screen time can be supervised.
Strategies for improving the quality of screen time
It is easy to find information suggesting that too much screen time can be problematic for children and adults, but there are also clear benefits of using the internet and digital devices.
Instead of focusing on how much time children and young people spend using screens we can focus on teaching them self-awareness and self-management strategies. Many devices have inbuilt features that support users to monitor and control their usage. Apple smartphones have ‘Screen Time’, and Android phones have ‘Digital Wellbeing’. Consider your own screen time. Parents can set the expectations and then model appropriate behaviour to encourage a balanced approach to screens at home.
Checklist for a healthy approach to screen time
Have you wondered if your expectations for your child using digital devices is healthy and well-balanced? Complete the checklist below to help determine if they have a healthy approach to screens.
▢ sleeps the recommended time for their age group (5-13 years, between 9 and 11 hours and, 14-17 years, between 8-10)
▢ participates in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day (can be broken up throughout the day)
▢ engages with school and/or learning, away from digital devices i.e completes homework
▢ connects socially with family and friends, in online and offline environments
▢ enjoys a variety of hobbies and interests, away from digital devices i.e playing a team sport
▢ has a healthy diet where they eat properly balanced meals as opposed to snacking on foods throughout the day
▢ has fun learning while using digital devices
▢ uses quality resources online and looks up or plays age-appropriate games
▢ regulates their emotions at an age-appropriate level when asked to switch off or move away from the device
▢ uses a digital device for the recommended time for their age group (not including school or homework)
Things to think about
- moderate the amount of time spent using screens
- develop self-awareness strategies for using digital devices
- create opportunities for open dialogue with your child around your expectations
- schedule a disconnected time when the family are to be switched off from devices
- develop a daily schedule that balances your physical and sedentary activity
Curriculum and syllabus links
NSW Syllabus outcomes
Australian Curriculum content descriptions
- ‘Too much time on screens? Screen time effects and guidelines for children and young people’, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia, accessed 19 May 2022
- ‘24-hour movement guidelines', Australian Government, Department of Health, accessed 19 May 2022
- 'Managing online time', Office of the eSafety Commissioner, accessed 19 May 2022
- 'Managing screen time' Office of the eSafety Commissioner, accessed 19 May 2022
- 'How much screen time? That’s the wrong question', Edutopia, accessed 19 May 2022
- 'Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines', Australian Government Department of Health, accessed 17 May 2022
- ‘Screen time: checklist for healthy use', Raising Children Network, accessed 20 May 2022