One mum’s take on balancing screen time, information and wellbeing

Mum Jenny talks about balancing screen time and how her children get their news

Jenny is a stay-at-home mum with two secondary school-aged boys. She explains how they balance their screen time with homework and shares additional challenges her youngest who has autism sometimes faces.

Managing screen time with autism

The pandemic changed how Jenny and her husband Drew approached technology and balancing screen time with their children. “When lockdown happened, we let the boys have XBoxes in their room to talk to their friends and have virtual parties,” Jenny explains. “Before that, we had no technology in bedrooms or after 6pm but relaxing the rules was actually really great.”

Having one child on the autism spectrum means that they need to monitor screen time quite carefully, especially with school exams on the horizon. There’s a constant balance to be struck between laying down the law and allowing her child to develop the skills he needs to self-regulate his screen time.

“My youngest is on the spectrum and struggles to stop once he’s on a screen because he uses it as a way to avoid situations or jobs that he doesn’t want to engage with,” says Jenny. “We did think about taking technology out of his room as we were finding he was up very late playing games online, then not getting up to do schoolwork the next morning. But over time, we think he is starting to regulate himself better and allocate some time each day to school before he plays games.”

Learn more about balancing screen time with expert tips.

Consuming news stories

Jenny says that her teenagers are past the days of watching Newsround. Instead, they get most of their news from apps and streaming services. “It’s more important now that we talk about fake news and what makes for a reliable source of information, and how to check if things you see online are true,” she says.

Learn more about fake news and misinformation with our advice hub.

Using tech for wellbeing

Part of managing screen time means using technology to track their fitness. They have smart watches and phone apps that track steps, distance running and other fitness goals. The boys feel motivated and enjoy the opportunity to compete with each other and with friends, using virtual challenges. This, combined with the social aspect of technology, means that Jenny sees tech as being something that generally improves her children’s wellbeing. “Especially with lockdown and all the things they missed out on, I love seeing how they use technology to improve their wellbeing.”

For Jenny and her husband Andrew, the key to understanding how their boys use technology is keeping the lines of communication open. Both parents chat regularly with the boys and, in return, the boys share highlights of their online lives with their parents. “Because they know I’m interested and I like to listen, they’ll share tips on how I can do things with technology,” says Jenny. “For example, last month both boys went to a gig and we collected them in the car. My eldest showed me how to ‘drop a pin’ on my phone so they could find us easily after the concert. It was really clever!”

Recent posts