Experts Answer: “How much time should my child be spending on social media?”

27 Mar 2023 UK SIC

This is part of a series of blogs written by the Education Team at Childnet, one of the partners of the UK Safer Internet Centre. The team deliver education and information sessions directly with children and young people aged 3-18 years old, parents, carers, teachers and professionals. In this series they will answer some of the most frequent questions asked by parents and carers about helping their children navigate life online.

We all know how popular social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram are with young people. However, we also know that the amount of time they spend on them can be a worry for you, and can sometimes be a cause of conflict at home.

We hear parents saying, “I’m so glad that social media was not around when I was growing up,” and as such, you have worries about your children spending too much time on devices. So let’s look at why this issue arises and what you can do.   

Why is social media important to young people?

Not only are social media apps a fantastic way to catch up with friends, but they also offer young people the opportunity to express their creativity, develop digital literacy and communication skills, create and share content, follow the latest trends, and explore other cultures and experiences… the list goes on!

It is no surprise therefore that young people enjoy spending a lot of time on these platforms. Many sites have a minimum user age of 13, although some sites, such as LEGO Life and PopJam, are specifically designed for younger children.

Is there a healthy amount of social media screen time?

There are is no perfect amount of screen time. It will depend on your family, what devices are being used for, and what you feel comfortable with – it is most important to think about what works for you.

Positive uses of technology can be incredibly beneficial for children and young people, allowing them to strengthen bonds within their social group, support each other with their health and wellbeing, or to broaden their knowledge base.

Having said that, try to make sure that time spent on social media is healthily balanced with other areas of your child’s life.

If the time spent online begins to negatively impact other aspects of their life – like school work, hobbies, exercise, family time, or even their sleep pattern – then perhaps consider looking at readdressing the balance.

How can I help my child to manage their social media use and stay safe?

know that the amount of time they spend on them can be a worry for parents and carers, and can sometimes be a cause of conflict at home.

Model positive uses of technology

You could talk to your child when you realise you’ve been online for too long, pointing out how it’s making you feel. Creating a Family Agreement can help with this.

Observe your child and their behaviour

If your child shows significant mood changes after being online, such as becoming angry, upset or withdrawn, this could be a sign that they’ve seen something upsetting or worrying.

Make use of screen time settings

Familiarise yourself with the parental controls that can be applied to your home Wi-Fi, and each of your child’s devices – like in app limits, content restrictions, and downtime settings. You can download the social media checklists for free to support with this.

Be open to communication

Recognise your child’s opinion and support them with their experiences. Let your child know that they can talk to you about anything and they won’t be in trouble for asking for help

Know where to go if something goes wrong

Social media sites should have clear and accessible places to report inappropriate behaviour or content. Make sure you talk with your child about these tools and ensure that they know how to use them. You can also use Report Harmful Content to support with reporting harmful or upsetting material online.

The online world feeling like a minefield? It can be difficult to know where to start to keep your child safe. The first in this series of blogs acknowledges this thinking and supports you with knowing where to begin.

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