Thursday, 29 January 2015 11:04

SURVEY: Cyber Safety and balancing kids’ screen time


Are you a good digital role model for your children? Telstra’s survey shows some startling results, with 65% of parents saying they’re not good tech role models and not enough balance between screen time and real life.

Telstra has released details of its latest survey, dubbed ‘Cyber Safety - Balancing Scree Time’, which not only asked 1348 Australian parents of children aged between 3-17 about their own use and their children’s use of devices, but also asked 507 Australian children aged 12-17 about their own use and perceptions of their parents’ use of devices.

65% of parents surveyed do not think they’re good role models when it comes to device usage, despite 50% of children saying their parents are good technology role models.

Thus, parents are being asked in 2015 to set a better example because children are copying their behaviour.

Two thirds (66%) of parents say they use devices in front of the television; 50% ‘second screen’ between 7pm-9pm during school nights; and 15% use devices during meal times. These findings were mirrored by the children surveyed with 71% using devices in front of the television; 41% say they second screen; and 19% use their device at meal times.

Then Telstra’s survey asked children about perceptions of their parents’ device usage.

12% said the amount of time their parent spends on their device impacts how well they look after their family, and a further 9% cent say the amount of time their parents spend on their device takes away from their family time.

Telstra’s Cyber Safety Manager, Shelly Gorr, said the results are a reminder to parents that they’re a key influencer on their children’s online behaviour.

“Children model their parents’ behaviour so it’s only natural for them to copy the example set by their mum or dad in relation to the way they use their device. As families prepare for the new school year, we’re encouraging parents to be mindful of the example they set and talk to children about ways they can balance their digital lives.

“So, for example, if it’s important to you that mealtimes are device-free, make sure you put your mobile away during dinner because children are happier if everyone in the family follows the rules.”

In further findings from the survey, 77% of parents said they considered putting controls in place on their children’s device to manage their children’s screen time, but 33% said they either did not know what strategies and technical tools were available, they did not believe they were tech-savvy enough to implement them, or did not understand the best way of managing technology without hindering their children’s device usage.

The survey also shows 74% of children use their device between 9pm and midnight on school nights, with 39% falling asleep while using their device. Similarly, 62% of parents use their device during the same time with 17% falling asleep while using their devices.

For more information about staying safe and enjoying the online world, visit Telstra’s Cyber Safety page. It has a wealth of information and freely downloadble PDFs on all the important aspects of family and consumer cyber safety. 

So, what are Telstra’s top tips to help balance children’s screen time?

1. Agree limits Talk to your children about the amount of digital time they’re living and then, based on what you agree is a healthy balance, set ‘switched off’ times of day. Help your children create a media use roster allocating blocks of time for homework, chores and their screen time.

2. Be an offline supporter Support and encourage your kids in activities that don’t involve a digital device. A ball game or reading a book are all great ways to show kids how they can enjoy themselves without a mobile, tablet or computer.

3. Set family rules Make sure you’re seen as a positive example. Do you want the dinner table to be a device-free zone? If so, then have everyone (including Mum and Dad) turn off their mobile phones and devices during dinner, or when taking part in family activities. Children are happier following rules if everyone in the family plays by them.

4. Turn off devices before bedtime Lack of sleep can affect alertness, concentration and memory. For a better night’s sleep try encouraging children to switch off at least one hour before bedtime. Create a charging station and charge all household devices in the one spot overnight.

5. Make the most of parental controls Many parental controls tools allow you to set time-of-day restrictions on children’s device usage. Telstra naturally recommends its 'Telstra Smart Controls' for mobile devices and 'Telstra Online Security' for your home network.

6. Consider the difference between types of screen time Not all screen time is created equal. Think about the differences between using a device for homework or creative expression versus using it for passive entertainment.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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