Parents often worry about how much screen time their child is getting and the impact it has on a child’s behaviour, attitude and developing brain – and rightly so. Research has shown excessive screen time in children can have a range of negative effects including delayed social skill development, sleep disturbances and eyesight problems[1].

In a recent study, teenagers themselves indicated they are worried about how much time they are spending on screens with 54% of American teens surveyed saying they spent too much time on their phones and 60% saying that too much time online was a ‘major problem’[2]. But there’s one factor that is often overlooked: adults are spending an excessive amount of time on screens too.

With the advent of the smart phone, we parents can now have the capacity to bring technology into every interaction and situation our families encounter. A 2018 study found that adults in the USA spent approximately 11 hours per day interacting with screens.[3] An Australian study conducted in 2016 showed that adults were spending approximately 6.5 hours a day on screens and it would be a fair assumption that these figures have risen over the past three years.[4] Clearly it’s not just kids and teenagers who are struggling with screen time!

So how can parents model healthy screen behaviours? Here are three things you can do today:

Do what I do, not just what I say.
If you set guidelines around screen use for your kids, model that behaviour for them too. For example, if you don’t want them using phones during dinner, then find a spot out of the way for your phone as well.

Have screen free time.
Help keep each other accountable by designating certain family times as distraction free, screen free times. If you’re playing a board game or hanging out at the beach, immerse yourself fully in the experience and let your kids see you without your phone in your hand.

Turn off notifications.
It’s really hard to ignore the ‘ping’ of a text message coming in or a social media notification. If the temptation is too great, turn off notifications. Almost all notifications/messages that come in can wait an hour or two for you to respond.

We are right to be worried about the impact that screens are having on our kids, but perhaps we need to spend a few minutes thinking about what impact it’s having on us adults too. Maybe it’s time to make some small but significant changes in the way we interact with devices to ensure that we are in charge of our devices rather than our devices being in charge of us.

For more good ideas, check out the article “Be a Role Model for Your Kids: Find a Healthy Balance with Media and Tech”.