Are you square-eyed yet?

Once upon a time, our challenge was to get children to stop watching the telly.  Now not only do we struggle with the telly but also with the tablet, phone, gaming console… the list goes on.

☆ Did you know that last year, Ofcom1 found that children aged 12-15 spend the most time per week online; close to 21 hours. This number is increasing each year but if your child, or children in your care, have become fans of this year’s gaming hit ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale’, then you may scoff at this number, thinking it’s far too low!

Types of Screen Time

Of course, the screen time struggle doesn’t only apply to television or gaming, the Social Media platforms have a huge part to play in our attachment to devices.  Each buzz of our phone, red circle notification and message from a friend give us a chemical zap of dopamine; the feel good neurotransmitter and so, like a drug, we reach to our devices for a hit. No wonder we can feel addicted to our devices.

These platforms are called ‘Social’ for a reason; we use them to connect with our friends and family when we aren’t with them but we cannot allow these devices to replace face-to-face interaction. Good online behaviours and positive screen time habits  are fundamental in a digital era. As parents, carers, teachers, social workers, youth workers, family members, babysitters and family friends, we must all lead by example and teach the children in our care

How long is too long?

When considering screen time restrictions, it is important to consider how children interact with the screens. For example: talking to a family member on video chat for an hour is more beneficial than watching cartoons for an hour.

The Common Sense Census: ‘Media Use by Tweens and Teens’ identified four categories of screen time:

Passive Consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music.
Interactive Consumption: playing games and browsing the internet.
Communication: video chatting and using social media.
Content Creation: using devices to make digital art or music.

Whilst it is recommended that adults spend less than 257 minutes a day looking at screens, there is little by way of advice for children and young people. Professionals tend to agree that:

Under 18 months: no screen time.
2-5 years: 1 hour per day.
6+: you should set limits depending on the type of media they interact with.

Communication is key; take time to understand how the children in your care behave online and adopt suitable screen time restrictions to help them adopt healthy habits.

Apple’s ‘Screen Time’ feature

With the release of iOS 12, Apple have made a giant leap in supporting families with the release of their new Screen Time feature.  Simply put, they say ‘Screen Time helps you and your family understand and make the most of time spent on devices’.

We know that devices are shared throughout households, so the umbrella-nature of this feature allows families to easily take control of their screen time habits without having to set them on each individual device.

Sounds great, where do I find it?

Firstly, update your device, or devices, to iOS 12. (On your iPhone, iPad or iPod tap Settings > General > Software Update)

Once you’re up-to-date, head back to Settings and you will see a new menu item called ‘Screen Time’, here you can set your limits and restrictions across all devices linked to your iCloud account, including family members.

Downtime allows you to schedule time away from the screen for all devices linked to your iCloud Account. Phone is always allowed and you can specify other apps to be allowed such as Messages.

You can also set daily App Limits for the time you spend on apps.  For example, if you allow a child to play games for an hour a day, you can set a time limit for 1 hour on games. This timer is reset at midnight and you can set a ‘Screen Time Passcode’ to bypass these restrictions on your own devices.

That’s not all!

Whilst children and young people are becoming more aware of ‘Stranger Danger’ online, they don’t always know how to react when they see something upsetting online.  Within Screen Time, Apple have added ‘Content & Privacy Restrictions’, this gives you easy access over how children and young people use the device. Here you can take control over:

Installing and Deleting Apps
In App Purchases (no more nasty surprises!)
Privacy Settings
Content Restrictions

What content can I restrict?

These content restrictions allow you to apply child-appropriate restrictions to Siri, Game Centre, App Store content and even Web Content. You can go as far as only allowing access to certain websites, unless you enter your screen time passcode.

Our Safer Schools lead iOS Developer Ross has been excited about this update for a very long time. He says:
“The screen time feature is going to be fundamental in building safer online habits in children and young people.  Through the different features, Apple encourages families to adopt better screen time habits and places more control (literally!!) in the hands of the parents.

“For example, a parent or carer can schedule Downtime on the device of their children and once that Downtime is activated, only specified apps can be used. No more Fortnite after 7pm!”

1 Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report (Ofcom 2017)