What is healthy digital technology and screen use?
Healthy digital technology use is balanced and positive.
It’s about what you use your technology and screens for, when you choose to use them, who you use them with, and how much time you spend using them. It’s also about getting a healthy mix of non-digital and digital activities into your life.
How your approach to digital technology and screens influences children
Your choices about digital technology use and screen time can have a positive influence on the way your child uses screens. Children develop healthy habits for digital technology use and screen time when they see you and other key role models using screens in healthy, balanced ways.
You can have this kind of influence simply by making regular, screen-free time for your own activities and family activities, like walking, reading, eating and just talking. When you do this, it sends your child a couple of key messages:
- There are many ways to entertain yourself, relax and have fun – and not all of them involve screens.
- Family time is one of the most important ways to spend time.
And when you do use digital technology, it’s important for your child to see you using it in productive, creative and social ways. For example, you might use your device to listen to music, draw, exercise or meditate. Or you might have a regular video call with extended family or a regular online gaming session with friends.
When you use digital technology in this way, it sends the message that digital technology use and screen time can be positive.
To grow and thrive, children need warm, responsive interactions with parents. But screens can sometimes get in the way of these kinds of interactions – for example, if parents interrupt conversations with children to check text messages. So when you’re talking or playing with your child, it’s great if you can put devices aside and really focus on what’s important to your child.
Role-modelling healthy digital technology use and screen time: tips
Here are ideas for using digital technology and screens in healthy and positive ways. These ideas can help you set an example of balancing digital and non-digital activities for your child:
What you use screens for
- Use screens in creative and healthy ways – for example, for creative activities like drawing, wellbeing activities like meditation or health activities like fitness tracking.
- Avoid always using screens to entertain your child in situations like long car journeys or appointments. Try mixing it up with things like car karaoke, alphabet search, ‘I spy’, reading or drawing.
When you use screens
- If you get a text message or social media notification while you’re talking to someone, especially your child, wait until the conversation is finished before you check it.
- Try not to have your phone, tablet or laptop in your bedroom at night. Charge your devices overnight in a family area, and teach your child to do the same.
- Switch off the TV at family mealtimes or when it’s ‘on in the background’. You could try listening to music instead.
Who you use screens with
- Use digital technology for keeping in touch with friends or family who live far away – for example, with weekly video calls or online board games.
- Share screen time with your child. Playing a game, watching a show or making a playlist together lets you turn screen time into family time. This is a good balance for solo screen use.
How much time you spend using screens
- Set aside some technology-free time each day, so you can be ‘in the moment’ with your child. This could be when your child gets home from school or you get home from work, during family mealtimes, when you’re watching your child play sport, when you’re at the park with your child and so on.
- Work together with your child to create a family media plan. You could include things like no mobiles phone at mealtimes. Then make sure you follow the guidelines in the plan too!
- Take breaks and move around regularly when you’re using screens. And use your device at eye level for good posture.
Keep track of your screen time for a week. Include all your screen use – TV, video games, social media, texts and so on. If you think you’re using screens more than you’d like to, reduce your use. Try logging out of social media apps to stop yourself from constantly checking them or put your phone in another room while you’re working.
Role-modelling healthy social media use: tips
Healthy social media use can keep you connected with friends and interests, the latest news, your child’s school and sports activities, and so on.
If you use and enjoy social media, there are plenty of ways you can be a role model for your child:
- Regularly check the privacy settings on your social media accounts.
- Take care of your digital footprint by being careful about the photos and comments you post and the photos and comments you’re tagged in.
- Make sure you’re always respectful in your posts.
- Talk about your social media use with your child. This will encourage your child to be open about their social media use too. If you share fun content with each other, it can be a great way to talk about the things you both like and think are important.
- Talk with your child about following each other on social media. This can be a great way to be a part of your child’s life and share interests. Younger teenagers might be OK with this, but older teenagers might not want you to follow them.
- Ask your child for permission before you post a photo of them or share information about them on social media.
If your screen time feels out of control, try to change the ways you use technology. If you’re finding it hard, look for support from friends, family or a professional. If your child sees you trying to manage your screen time, this sets a good example for them too.