7 months ago

The average Australian home now has more than 6 screens in which to consume video content. These screens include multiple devices such as Smart TVs, tablets and mobile phones. Screentime is a hot topic, with consuming digital content considered a popular Australian past-time.

Children and teens are spending less time out on neighbourhood streets socialising with friends in person than previous generations. Instead they are at home increasingly more, and turning to digital devices as a way of connecting with their peers. Our teens are embedded with technology these days, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however as with all things there needs to be a healthy balance.
Recent studies have shown that too much screen time however can lead to problems with brain function, depression and obesity.  Excessive screen time and digital consumption can also lead teens to become withdrawn, anxious and irritable when away from the screen. These negative changes in behaviour can affect general health and wellbeing (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health).

So how much screen time is too much?

In Australia there are set screen time guidelines for children, starting with zero screen time for under 2’s. For 2-5’s an hour a day is the maximum recommended, with this extending to 2 hours for 6-17 year olds, excluding school work. (Raising Children).

What can parents do to help create a better on-screen/off-screen balance?

There are 5 key things parents can do to support their teens in limiting screen time.

1. Limit their own screen time

Lead by example and limit your own use of screens, particularly excessive use of your own mobile phone. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between parents’ screen time and that of their children. “Kids model their behaviour of tech from what they see and the boundaries around screen time that is the family norm” (Australian Parents Council)

2. Enjoy screen time together

Spend time together watching content and engage in conversation about what you have seen. Screen time doesn’t need to be a solo activity.

3. Set rules around screen time

Setting up good family guidelines around tech use early very much helps in later years. Having rules around where, when, how and what content can be consumed are all associated with lower usage. From setting dedicated times in the day when screens are available, to where screen time takes place, e.g. in the family/living rooms rather than bedrooms are useful ways of monitoring screen time. Another rule to consider is single device usage, encouraging teens to not be on their mobile phone whilst also consuming TV for example can help with focus and reduced consumption.There are tools also to help with monitoring and implementing rules, from digital wellbeing timers in most smartphones, to parental controls on apps.

4. Encourage other activities

Teenagers hanging out in worn out Converses and torn jeans
Providing teens within-person opportunities to socialise with their friends can limit screen time.

It is important that as parents, we set up opportunities for our teens to socialise in-person and take part in physical activities, both things that are known to boost self-esteem. This could include inviting friends over, encouraging group activities and participation in team sport. What works for one teen, may not work for another – so take some time to try out different activities. As well as a means of connection, often a child/teen selects screen time as an easy option when looking for something to do. By setting up alternatives and creating other primary means of connection outside of school,  screen time will often reduce as a result.

5. Encourage self regulation

An ability to recognise the consequences of excessive screen time and giving teens a sense of autonomy in their decision to limit screen time. Including the teen in agreeing and setting their own rules and expectations with how they want to spend their free time.

Teenagers interacting on smart phones

Further useful information can be found at:

To discuss your child’s/teen’s health and wellness, call us on (02) 6654 1282 or pop in to the surgery to book your next appointment.