By Executive Director of Raising Children, Professor Julie Green

Families that have a healthy relationship with technology can use screens in ways that are good for family relationships, that meet individual needs and interests, and in ways that are appropriate to all ages.

Healthy screen use is about having the right balance between time on and off screen and using technology in positive ways.  Children notice how their parents and carers use screens, so parents can be great role models in helping their children develop healthy screen habits.

For example, spending time as a family without screens, talking, playing games or sharing a meal helps children learn that family time is more important than screen time, and that it’s important to do a range of activities.

Keeping track of your screen use can help you understand the messages you might be sending. If your phone has a tracking feature, you could use this to track your use. You could ask your child to keep track as well. You and your child could compare your usage and talk about whether there’s anything you’d like to change.

Rules around screen practices are also important for families. Developing rules together as a family about how screens are used, when and where helps means everyone knows the expectations around screens for everyone in the family.

If your child is wanting their iPad every waking hour, it’s probably time to implement some screen time rules.

Questions you can use to negotiate family screen rules include:

  • When and where can devices be used in your home? For example, in family rooms but not bedrooms?
  • Are any particular websites, games or apps off limits? Which ones, and why?
  • What information is OK to share online?
  • Are there some games or movies that need to be saved until younger children have gone to bed?
  • What happens if someone breaks the rules?

It’s important that rules are flexible enough to cover school days, weekends and holidays and that rules take into account your child’s changing needs and interests as they grow. This might mean reviewing the rules occasionally to make sure they still fit your family’s needs.

It’s important that rules are flexible enough to cover school days, weekends and holidays and that rules take into account your child’s changing needs.

Using screens as a family is also a great way to build trust, connection and communication to strengthen family relationships. It also helps parents know what their children are doing online which helps to keep them safe.

Some top tips for sharing screen time include:

  • Get your child to teach you how to play an online game they enjoy, or take you on a ‘tour’ of their apps and favourite websites.
  • Search online with your child for something that you’re both interested in – for example, a weekend activity, or a new recipe to cook for dinner.
  • Play an ongoing game with your child, like online Scrabble. This is fun and can be something special that just the two of you do.
  • Download a music app, then share and discuss the music you’re listening to.
  • Get active while using technology together – for example, go for a hike using a mapping app.

For more tips, backed by science, on monitoring your child’s screen practices, check out Raising Children.