Deal with it

No matter how much time children spend in front of the screen, there is the potential that something can go wrong. Learn about key issues children may face and how to support them.

What’s on the page

Parents screen time concerns

Here are extracts from our recent study on how parents are managing their children’s screen time. There is a broad range of issues they raise from addiction to impact on retention.

Fear of smartphone addiction

“I have noticed how anti-social she has become I can’t get her to interact or leave the house without her phone she takes it everywhere. I would even say now my concern is that shes actually addicted to her phone and literally has a meltdown when she [doesn’t] have it.”

[Parent responder]

“I am have already starting to put rules as she is spending every waking Minute on her phone, its ridiculous today I had to take her phone off her.”

[Parent responder]

Social media impact wellbeing

“It can make them obsessed with how they look, or what they do, social media would suggest that everyone has a perfect life, always on holiday, eating out etc. I know this isn’t the reality but it is hard to get that across to my kids.”

[Parent responder]

“I feel we are becoming more and more reliant on social media and there is so many ways and forms of bullying appearing on these sites and I feel that young adults, teenagers, and children don’t know how to react and seek the help and guidance they need.”

[Parent responder]

Creates short attention span

“…I suppose you can so easily get distracted and start searching for something and then a pop up appears and a link and then you end up looking at something different! Does seem to create a short attention span!”

[Parent responder]

Inappropriate contact and content

“[My son] watches YouTube a lot and with that, you have the worry of which videos he’s watching along with the comments sections on those videos.”

[Parent responder]

FAQ: Is there such a thing as too much screen time?

  • It’s difficult to put a number on this as it all depends on how their device use affects their activities in real life
  • Remember to review how they are prioritising what gets done each day versus spending over 3 hours a day on their tech
  • Often a sign that it’s too much is when they may feel anxiety or stress if they are disconnected or separated from their phone
  • Also if it is having a physical effect on their body, i.e. tiredness or something more serious, start a conversation about cutting down or seeking professional support
  • Lack of sleep and exercise and no willingness to visit friends may be a sign they need to put down the controller and ask me how I am doing
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If you are concerned, there are counselling services and organisations that can support you and your child.

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FAQ:  Are all screens created equal or are some better than others?

Children experience screens in two different ways – passive and active. Passive might be watching YouTube videos on repeat or a program on TV while simply absorbing the information. Active involves action. This may be browsing the internet, typing up a blog, gaming online or video chatting.

Common Sense media mentions the four C’s when assessing if whether an app or platform is suitable for your child: Connection, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Content. Ensure that children are experiencing a broad range of media to make ensure they are learning and the ability to apply critical thinking to trust the right sources.

It is always best to encourage children to strike a balance between these to get the best out of the online world. Encourage your child to use apps that promote creativity, outdoor play or develop a skill they’ll use in the future.

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Get some simple tips to help manage a young person’s screen time from Common Sense Media.

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Gaming addiction – managing risks

What is online gaming addiction?

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation classified gaming addiction as a disorder and provided the following list of signs and symptoms:

  • Have impaired control over gaming.
  • Give increased priority to gaming to the precedence of other areas of life.
  • Continues or escalates gaming time, despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
  • Significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
  • This gaming behaviour should normally be evident over a period of at least 12 months

How do I recognise gaming disorder in my child?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
  • Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?
  • Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
  • Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies (in any form)?
  • Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?

If the answer is yes to all, seek support from organisations that can help or go to your GP.

How to prevent gaming addiction in your child?

  • Stay engaged in what they do online with regular conversations or join in to experience it together
  • Set rules and a realistic time limits on how much time they spend gaming and keep on top of it
  • Encourage them to spend more time outside away from screens
  • Consider using tech tools to monitor how much they spend online with their buy-in
  • Set a good example with your own device use so they a good role model
Why do children enjoy gaming? Amber Jenning of Ourfamilylife.org tells us about her love of gaming.
Resources document

Our expert panel share insight on what you need to know about gaming addiction and how to prevent it.

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See our top tips to help your children play safely online

Social media and mental health

Social media is a positive tool to help children to stay connected, removing physical boundaries and creating a space for them to share experiences together. However, in recent years it has also been linked to affecting children’s well being.

What is the impact on children?

  • From research, we know that heavy use of social media is associated with poorer mental health. A Canadian study found that people who used social media more than two hours a day were more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor compared to occasional users.
  • Children also use as a comparing tool, often looking at others posts and comparing them to their own which can live them feeling that they can’t measure up and are missing out.
  • There is also pressure to post the best post and images to show others that you are living ‘your best life’. At time chasing likes on posts to drive up their self-esteem

How to support your child

  • Have specific conversation about the impact of seeking approval from people who onlin that may not know them
  • Remind them that social media is not hte only way to be social and encourage them to have face to face interactions with friends
  • Use real stories in the press to discuss possible issue of using social too much, i.e. poor body confidence or self-esteen
  • Talk about how people post are not always showing the truest picture of their real life as most would never post a bad picture
Young Health Movement and the Royal Society for Public Health investigates in its latest report #StatusOfMind
Resources document

Help children make smarter choices online with our social media tips

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FAQ: How does seeing harmful content online affect children?

No matter how old children are, preparing children for what they might see online is important to give them the tools to make safer choices online.

If your child stumbles across inappropriate content online such as pornography or sites promoting extremist views, it can cause them to be confused and anxious that they’ve done something wrong by seeing it (on purpose or by accident).

Younger children may feel more vulnerable and need a lot more support so use situations like this to talk it out in a safe space and answer any questions they have about what they’ve seen to reassure them.

Resources document

Get more advice on how to protect your child from inappropriate content on our issue page.

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Digital resilience – preparing them for the online world

With the help of our expert ambassador Dr. Linda Papadopoulus, we’ve created a number of age-specific resources, offering tips parents can apply every day to help children become more resilient online.

Toolkit: Supporting 6 – 10 year olds

A guiding hand as they start their digital journey

Toolkit: Supporting 11- 13 year olds

Adjusting to new online challenges

Toolkit: Supporting 14+ year olds

Build their online identity

More to explore

Here are more resources to help you keep your child safe online