By Kylie Dawson 

Screen time! It’s an ongoing issue for any parent or carer of children in the 21st century.  How do we approach it? What can we do to make screen time meaningful? And how can we ensure it doesn’t take over our, and our child’s, life? 

We have put together our top five tips for you to have a think about. 

  1. Develop a digital tech agreement with your child from about three years of age and have your child “sign” the agreement.  Place the agreement somewhere visible, like the fridge.  The agreement can include things like: 
  • Screens include phones, tablets, and the TV
  • I will ask before I touch or use any screens
  • I will not download or play any games without talking to Mum and Dad first
  • Screens are used between (insert hours)
  • Screens are not used in the 2 hours before bedtime
  • If I break this agreement I will not be able to have screens for a day
  1. Create a picture with your child that shows ALL of the parts of your life, and how screens/digital technology is just one part.  For example, paint a big rainbow together and say “This is our life rainbow – each band stands for something important in our life that makes our life shiny, colourful and beautiful.  What makes your life beautiful? What do you really love?”  Your child may say they love to dance.  “Ah, so dancing and music is important you – let’s label one of our rainbow bands “Music and Dancing”.  Your child might say TV, games or the iPad is important to them, and that is ok; you can label one of the bands with this and then encourage them to think of other things.  At the end you will have a rainbow that includes lots of wonderful things, and you can refer to this rainbow at any time. When your child is annoyed that you have ended screen time, you can point to the rainbow and say “Remember, screens are just one part of our life.  Let’s choose something else from the rainbow to do now”. 
  2. Reflect on how you use digital technology.  Sometimes we, as adults, are better at telling others what they should do, but we don’t heed that same advice! Consider writing your own Digital Tech Agreement; this will help establish rules for yourself around how you use screens, and models to your children thoughtful and intentional use of digital technology. 
  3. Leave your phone at home sometimes! If you go out for a walk down your street and through the local park, leave your phone at home.  Give yourself and your child the opportunity to truly be in the moment.  Your child might ask you to take a photo of something, and you tell them you don’t have your phone, but you can both take a “memory photo”.  Or they might ask a question and your usual habit (if you are like me!) is to Google it straight away, but this time you have to just say “Hmm, I don’t know….I wonder…”
  4. When your child does use screens, talk to them about their experience.  Let’s say you have let your child watch a Bluey or two; maybe you are using this time to sit and have a quiet cup of tea outside, or you are hanging clothes on the line, or you are replying to texts and emails.  After Bluey has finished and screen time is over, ask your child “What did Bluey and Bingo get up to today?”  Or you might have overheard Bluey playing “floor is lava” and you can comment “I saw Bluey playing ‘floor is lava’; that looked like fun!”.  This turns a potentially passive experience into a more interactive and reflective one and provides you and your child an opportunity to have a sustained conversation together.  


When you think about screen time I encourage you to think about the saying “Nothing is all good, or all bad”, and then team it up with the knowledge that being intentional is the key, deciding how, why and when to use screens is what will make the difference!