Life Tech Screen-obsessed parents need to check their own habits

Screen-obsessed parents need to check their own habits

Experts are advising parents to monitor their own screen time to lead by example for their children. Photo: Getty
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Parents should worry less about their children’s screen time and more about their own, leading experts say. 

Jordan Foster, cyber safety expert and child psychologist, told The New Daily parents needed to observe their own screen behaviour, before criticising their children.

“One of the biggest problems that I often see parents doing is being on their phones while they’re in conversation with their kids and this behaviour is saying that my phone is just as important as what my child has to say,” Ms Foster said.

“Parents often forget that they are modelling unhealthy behaviours to their children and they’re looking at these devices and learning about screen time from them.”

Professor Stephen Houghton, lead researcher in screen use study at the University of Western Australia, said parents were on their devices just as much as their children.

Professor Houghton, who referred to a recent study that examined family smartphone use in fast-food restaurants, said families were glued to mobile phones during meal times.

“We see this behaviour in shopping centres where people are walking into you because they’re fixated on their phones.”

‘I smashed my kids’ iPads’

British TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp revealed on Monday she smashed her children’s iPads after they broke her rules about screen time.

The 47-year-old told Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine that her sons, Oscar Hercules and Bay Atlas, were playing games outside the allotted time.

The Location, Location, Location presenter, who has since left Twitter following the backlash, said: “This is the first time I’ve said this publicly. In June I smashed my kids’ iPads – not in a violent way. I actually banged them on the table leg.”

“There is a game called Fortnite and another PUBG and I decided… we had made all sorts of rules and all sorts of times when we said you can’t play them, and all those rules got broken and in the end I said: ‘Right that is it, I have to physically [break them].” 

While her comments led to a furore on social media with people accusing her of treating her items poorly, several people supported her move, saying they too had shared the screen-time frustration.

Dr Jordy Kaufman, senior researcher in psychology at Swinburne University, told The New Daily he understood how frustrated parents can get with screen-time issues, but said the situation could have been handled better. 

“Better things could have been done with those devices, like going to other families,” Dr Kaufman said.

But cyber safety expert Susan McLean said it wasn’t up to anyone else to say what Allsopp did with her possessions.

“She damaged her own property and some parents do end up getting to that level of frustration because they’re saying time’s up with screen time but their children aren’t quite compliant,” Ms McLean told The New Daily.

Tips to managing screen time

Several experts told The New Daily that for children less than two years of age, screen time was not recommended.

For children aged two to four years, screen time should be limited to no more than one hour each day.

Children aged five to 17 years should limit recreational screen time to a maximum of two hours daily, but should take into account the amount of time they’re spending on devices at school and during other activities. 

Dr Kimberley O’Brien, child psychologist at Quirky Kid Clinic, told The New Daily it was important to set strict screen-time rules in place.

“If children have gone over their screen-time use, then putting in place a week-long ban is usually something that will resonate with them,” Dr O’Brien said.

“If you are going to give children screen time then it’s important to research educational games and not ones that allude to gambling.”

Experts also said meals should always be kept screen-free as it was an important time for parents to engage with children about their day.

Most importantly, parents are advised not to use screen time as a means of rewarding or punishing their children, as this could lead to them putting a high value on using their devices.

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