How much is too much?

Boy wearing headphones and working on a laptop computerHow much is too much time online?

There is no magic guideline for the ‘right’ amount of time for children to spend online. This is a matter for you to decide—but there are guidelines that can help you in addition to factoring in the age of your kids, their maturity level and your family dynamics.

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What do the experts suggest is appropriate for entertainment?

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.

Australia’s National Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines *

 Your child’s age  Recommended screen time 
 Under 2 years

 Zero.
 Babies and toddlers should not watch any television or other electronic media (DVDs, computers and electronic games).

 2 to 5 years

 Less than one hour per day.
 Limit their time sitting and watching TV or using other electronic media to less than one hour per day.

 5 to 17 years

 Less than two hours per day.
 Limit their use of electronic media for entertainment (i.e. TV, computers and seated electronic games) to no more than two hours per day.

*These guidelines are for entertainment purposes only and do not include screen time for educational purposes.

What about 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.

Parents questions about how much time children spend online

How can I help my kids strike the right balance?

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.

How can I tell if my child is online too much?

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:

  • online activities interfering with general health and wellbeing
  • obsession with particular websites or games
  • anger when being asked to take a break from online activity
  • appearing anxious or irritable when away from the computer
  • spending increasing amounts of time online
  • a declined interest in social activities like meeting friends or playing sport
  • excessive tiredness
  • decline in academic performance and failing to complete schoolwork
  • seemingly isolated or withdrawn
  • reduced personal hygiene
  • negative changes in their behaviour
  • ongoing headaches, eye strain and sleep disturbance.

How can I tell if behavioural changes are just their age?

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.

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