A great place to start is understanding what health professionals recommend. The Department of Health has established Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, which include links to brochures, fact sheets and tips for physical entertainment.
|Your child’s age||Recommended screen time|
|Under 2 years|
|2 to 5 years|
Less than one hour per day.
|5 to 17 years|
Less than two hours per day.
*These guidelines are for entertainment purposes only and do not include screen time for educational purposes.
The internet is a great tool for educational support and some of the time that your child will spend online will be for this purpose. In fact, more schools are now implementing a ‘bring your own device policy’ in the classroom to take advantage of online education in the classroom. It is crucial that you help your children strike the right balance between online time for education and online time for entertainment and social networking.
Health experts recommend limiting sedentary behaviour because of risks linked to chronic disease, obesity, sleeping issues, poor academic performance and reduced face-to-face social contact. But screen time in moderation can provide many benefits including enhanced learning experiences, creativity, social interaction, entertainment, support in literacy and numeracy skills and improvement in motor skills. So striking a balance between social activities that include active time away from screens is incredibly important.
If your child’s online activity appears to be having a negative impact on their personal wellbeing or physical behaviour (or on your family), then consider discussing expectations and time limits. Some of these noticeable changes that can indicate excessive internet use include:
Some behavioural changes are a normal part of growing up (teenagers, anyone!), but try to find out why your child is struggling, as there may be underlying issues such as cyberbullying, friendship difficulties or mental health issues. As part of your conversation, ask your child about how much time they spend online and explain why it is worrying. Try not to show that you disapprove or they might shut down communication altogether. Talking to their school may also reveal academic or social issues but they may also be able to provide support.