#BeyondTheScreen: kids want parents to switch off too

High school Primary school Staying connected

As parents we often feel like our kids’ obsession with their devices drives us to distraction. But interestingly a new survey of Queensland kids has revealed that frustration runs both ways.

Technology has edged its way into almost every facet of our lives bringing new challenges to parenting in the digital age. And while we’ve been busy worrying about how much time our kids spend in front of the screen, the Queensland Family and Child Commission’s Growing Up in Queensland survey has turned the tables, revealing when it comes to technology, kids also want adults to put down their devices and talk.

While this might sound easy, switching off and being present these days can be a bit of a challenge. At any time of the day we’re constantly bombarded with news alerts, status updates and phone calls thanks to the gadgets and devices we carry. And, as parents, we’ve come to count on them to get stuff done – shopping, schedules, banking etc. So, it’s any wonder it’s hard to unplug and pay attention to what’s going on in front of us.

Apps and websites are designed to keep users on them for as long as possible, sucking us into a virtual rabbit hole of suggested links and endless scrolling. A quick search can turn into an hour of lost time looking at funny animal videos or ‘where are they now’ clips (hah 😀).

In a 2016 survey conducted by R U OK?, respondents said they spent an average of 46 hours a week looking at a screen but just 6 hours with family and friends. When we’re with the kids, we want to be present in the moment and enjoying it and they’ve told us that’s what they want from us too!

So, in this ever-evolving digital world, it’s a good thing to continually self-reflect on how long we as parents spend on our devices. Especially given kids are like sponges and look to us for what to do.

Did you know you can check your Facebook, Instagram and YouTube account to see how many hours you spend on it per day, or per week? (Hint: just go to ‘Settings’.)

You can even set a daily reminder on these apps to let you know when you’ve reached your self-assigned limit. And turn off all of your push notifications – another temptation to lure you back into the tech void.

There’s plenty more hints and tips out there that can help you manage time spent in the digital world.

Technology is a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to parenting. It can bridge long distances making it easier for families to keep in touch, provide useful advice at your fingertips, and even help you find your own little ‘community’ whether it’s playgroups, parent groups or hobby/interest groups.

But it can be problematic, impeding on meaningful time with loved ones directly in front of us.

The Growing Up in Queensland survey also revealed that spending quality time with parents and carers was particularly important to kids, so maybe as the New Year approaches it’s a good time to reflect on how much technology is affecting the entire family, and what we could do differently in 2019.

Last Updated: 25 June 2020