How to talk with your kids about screens

by Peter WM
October 18, 2021

The Spinoff are doing a special week dedicated to screens. It’s like Shark week but more digital. 🙂

They took me up on my offer to write an article about digital safety for kids. How much screen time is too much, how much it too little – etc.

In a previous life I worked in education and was involved in hours of discussion around digital safety for young people, different approaches, etc.

It’s great to be able to continue some of those conversations in this very different, Covid-19 era.

It can be hard to talk about, but we have to acknowledge that our children can be at risk when they’re spending time in digital spaces we’re not familiar with. Just as parents talk with their offspring and help them navigate difficult situations in the playground, we need to do the same with digital communication.

Peter WM in the Spinoff

The pandemic really has changed everything with screen time. Kids expect (and need to) socialise – which leaves them doing that online in games we don’t play, interacting with people we don’t know.

Video calling has become totally the norm for hours at a time.

Just three years ago in 2019 a major survey in NZ found kids used screens around two hours a day. Current (last month’s) data puts that figure at just over five! And that’s not five total, that’s on top of what’s needed for schoolwork.

It’s a dangerous playground out there – but at the same time it’s best to teach kids how to navigate it all in the safest way we can provide.

Definitely don’t throw them to the digital wolves or keep them ‘locked in the house’.

Just like we help teach our children what to look out for in the physical world, how to interact in the physical world, and how to play their part in keeping them safe in it too – we can and should do the same thing in the digital world.

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