Ofcom’s national, quantitative research finds that older children are finding it harder to control their screen time than they were last year. The proportion of 12-15s who agreed they found it difficult to moderate their screen time has increased to a third (35%), up from a quarter (27%) the year before. Seven in ten older children (71%) are allowed to take their mobile phone to bed. But in spite of these challenges, around two thirds of 12-15 year olds (63%) considered they ultimately achieved ‘a good balance between screen time and doing other things’.

Most research agrees that although specific screen time limits are dated, there does come a point where excessive device use has negative impacts, affecting sleep, health and mood. So whilst we need to install some boundaries for our children, if we can get some understanding from them as to why we are doing it, then hopefully there will be fewer family arguments!

  1. Make bedrooms screen free. Keep Tv’s, video games and computers in common areas, instead of children’s bedrooms so that they can share screen time and don’t disappear off for hours at a time. Tablets and smartphones should be charged in common areas so they don’t interfere with their sleep. This rule should help curb the bedtime battles of getting them to put their phone or tablet down! Plus, it means that you’re around to try answer some of those tricky homework questions!
  2. Make screens off-limits for certain days or hours.   
    • Eliminate the background TV.
    • Make mealtimes family time and screen free and that includes your phones too!
    • Stop children being in front of a screen for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime to reduce the excitation of the brain before sleep.
    • Set regular times for homework or practicing an instrument or skill which happen every day at the same time to encourage the habit. Get your older children to think about what routine works best for them. By coming up with their own schedule, they are more likely to stick to it!
  3. Make screentime work for everyone.
    • Spend time playing on the computer with your child and make it social or provide computer games that encourage activity and physical movement such as the Wii.
    • Watching specific shows together can be used as teaching points. Talk to your children about adverts, product placements and images supported by the media that do not reflect reality. Encourage your child to be discerning and spot poor media practices such as using celebrities to promote products and the use of skinny models in adverts. Talk about the programme afterwards which helps encourage them in critical thinking and will hopefully encourage them to get them thinking about their own screentime too.
  4. Be a role model.
    • Set a good example by prioritising social and family time to play or talk with your children.
    • Try to limit your own use of screens and technology to lead by example.
    • Encourage your children to have interests and hobbies and actively pursue them.
    • Together, create a list of non-screen activities they enjoy so you can all refer to it when you’ve had too much screen time. If there are activities on there they love doing, then it will encourage them to take a break!
  5. Give your child (some) control. Talk to children about the disadvantages of high levels of screen time in a way they can understand. And then praise them when they make good decisions about viewing time.  As long as they stay within your family’s rules on screen time, allow them some choice as to what they watch or use on the tablet. When the time is nearly up, help them by giving a reminder or get them to set an alarm.

Thank you for reading – hope these suggestions help get more cooperation from your older children and encourage them to make more positive choices. But, we were teenagers ourselves and know there will be times when they’ll test the boundaries! By having consistency on screentime limits from an early age, this should help with later years – take a read of our blog, Screentime – What is right for your family, for lots of ideas.

Jemma & Gill xxx

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