One of the biggest challenges facing both adults and children alike is trying to create a balance between time spent online and time spent away from the Internet. This can be quite a challenge! From our work with children in primary schools throughout Ireland we hear from them that they are sometimes not even conscious of the amount of time that they spend online every day. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, carried out in 2010, found that kids spend more time engaged with media than they do with any other activity other than sleeping.
So what is the best way to create a balance for your child? Children learn best through watching others, so a great way to ensure that your child has a good balance where technology is concerned is to be a good role model. If your child sees that you have a balance with the time you spend on and offline they will, most certainly learn from that. Another positive step is to encourage alternative activities to spending time online. Negotiation and reminding your child of the 5:1 rule, we have developed at Zeeko regarding screentime will, play a part here. The 5:1 Rule encourages 5 hours spent on ‘real world’ activities for every hour spent on screens. Stress the importance of spending time outdoors and meeting with their friends in person as opposed to interacting online.
One very effective way of encouraging and supporting a healthy digital balance is to create a specific time each week, for example on a Saturday afternoon when the whole family has technology free time. Doing something like this as a family makes all the difference. Rather than children feeling this is a rule they have to follow they will see that everyone in the family is taking on an activity together.
As always communication is central to creating a balance. Talking to your child about their experiences online, particularly if they appear to be distressed or upset immediately after being online is important. It will not only give you a sense of what is happening, it will also give you an opportunity to reinforce the importance of taking a break from being online. Children can regularly feel overwhelmed, particularly if they are experiencing something negative online. Taking a step back can be a great help in gaining perspective. Our recent blog The Digital Journey – Why Communicating with Your Child is Key offers more detailed advice on areas like active mediation, which will also be helpful in creating a balance around the use of technology.
Just a few years ago the focus was on creating a work life balance, it now appears that the new challenge is to create a digital balance.
Here is an interesting article from an educator in the United Sates that offers her take on the importance of creating a balance.
The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide offers more comprehensive advice on keeping your child safe online. You can buy a copy of the book here.