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Policing vs Empowering: Managing your Kids’ Screen Time

These days, ‘switching off’ from our digital devices seems more challenging than ever as we remain holed up in our homes, with huge chunks of our lives migrating to our screens.

For parents across the globe, managing their children’s screen time during the stay home measures is just another stressor they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Screen time among children has been on the rise during the pandemic. In fact, our investigation of screen time during the circuit breaker period in a subset of Singaporean primary and secondary school children found that this group of children are spending an average of 8.5 hours each day in front of smart device screens during this period. This is a 25% increase in screen time as compared to before the circuit breaker started.

The rise in screen time has left many parents more frazzled than ever before, as they try in vain to curb their children’s device use often by arbitrarily implementing screen time rules. And this, as research shows, may even lead to more problems in the household! The ‘restrictive’ approach of policing their children through rules and punishments to control screen time can put a strain on parent-child relationships. In fact, in this digital age, screen time disagreements between parents and children are one of the biggest sources of conflicts in the household.

With screen time having such large implications on household dynamics, it has become extremely important to rethink how parents should go about managing their children’s screen time. In other words, given that policing screen time creates animosity and tension between parents and children, is there another way parents can manage how their children use their devices?

Professor of social psychology, Sonia Livingstone OBE suggests that there indeed is. She encourages a more dialogic home environment where parents engage with their children about technology through open communication and working together with them, rather than arbitrarily imposing the rules.

This process takes into account children’s needs with regards to their digital devices, and necessitates that parents educate and offer guidance to their children about what the ‘right’ types of online content and screen-based activities are. Ultimately, it seeks to empower children with the knowledge on how best to maximise digital opportunities while avoiding the pitfalls of technology, in a fun and engaging way.

Shifting away from ‘policing’ to a more holistic solution to screen time management not only enhances children’s relationships with their devices but cultivates healthier relationships between parents and children.

This is exactly what we at Plano strive to achieve every day. We believe that positive reinforcement of healthy device use habits and a collaborative home environment are key to enabling children to organically achieve well-balanced relationships with their digital devices. Beyond that, empowering parents with the right information about the world their children are growing up in is very much part of our holistic education and awareness efforts. 

As digital devices become more and more embedded in children’s lives, simply policing device use is a one dimensional approach to a complex situation. And I believe that the parents who evolve their methods of managing their children’s screen time from policing to empowering hold the key to helping their children create a lifetime of healthy device habits.



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child's eye health now

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Download the only science-based parental app
that protect your child's eye health now

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