Screen time and digital technology use for children: part of a healthy lifestyle
Screen time and digital technology use can be part of a healthy lifestyle when they’re balanced with other activities that are good for your child’s development. These activities include physical play, outdoor play, creative play, reading and socialising. Getting the right balance also includes making sure screen time doesn’t interfere with sleep.
Our tips can help you encourage your child to use digital technology in balanced and healthy ways.
1. Make rules about screen time and digital technology use
You can help your child balance screen time and digital technology use with other activities. One of the best ways to do this is by working together on family rules or a family media plan.
Your family’s rules might cover:
- where your child can use digital technology – for example, only in family rooms or not in the car
- when your child can use digital technology – for example, mealtimes are free of TV, computers and phones, or no screens before school or until chores are finished
- how your child can use digital technology – for example, for making animations or checking a netball shooting technique, but not for playing Candy Crush
- how you handle digital technology use for children of different ages – for example, there might be some games that your older child can play only when their younger sibling is out or has gone to bed
- how your child can stay safe online – for example, by letting you know if they come across upsetting and inappropriate content, or by checking privacy and location settings and personal data safety.
It’s OK if your rules include time limits to help your child balance screen time with other things like physical activity. For example, it might help to know that Australian physical activity guidelines say school-age children should have at least one hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity like running or jumping.
2. Aim for short screen time sessions
When your child is using digital technology, it’s best for your child to have short screen time sessions and take regular breaks. Getting up and moving around is important for your child’s energy levels, development, sleep, and overall health and wellbeing.
You can do this by encouraging your child to:
- use a timer to set breaks
- do something active when the timer ends, like play outside
- make use of natural breaks in screen time – for example, encourage your child to do a victory dance when they finish a level in a game.
3. Get your child moving, especially outside
It’s a good idea to encourage your child to play outside several times a day.
At this age, outdoor play can include:
- building and creating with equipment, furniture or other things they find outside
- playing tiggy, chasey or tag
- playing with balls, like kicking or shooting goals
- climbing trees.
Active play and physical activity for school-age children can happen indoors too. It can be simple things like dancing, doing star jumps, or throwing and catching balls.
4. Imagine and create
Creative activities like telling stories, dressing up or drawing are good for your child’s development. Activities like these help your child learn how to experiment, think, learn and solve problems.
Reading and storytelling with your child promotes brain development and imagination, teaches your child about language and emotions, and strengthens your relationship.
5. Encourage play and friendship with others
When children play face to face with others, they develop important life skills. These include getting along with other people, being independent and learning how to sort out conflicts and problems.
You can support your school-age child’s friendships by arranging playdates and sleepovers.
6. Avoid screen time and digital technology use before bed
School-age children need plenty of sleep – 9-11 hours a night.
Screen time and digital technology use before bed can affect how quickly your child falls asleep. If your child avoids mobile phones, tablets, computer screens or TV in the hour before bed, your child is likely to get to sleep more quickly.
7. Keep digital technology out of bedrooms at night
If you keep mobile phones and other devices out of your child’s bedroom at night, your child won’t be able to stay up late playing games or messaging friends. This can also stop your child being disturbed in the night by messages or notifications.
When you help your child choose good-quality apps, games, TV and YouTube as well as balancing screen time, your child will learn to make good choices about using free time when they’re older.