THE BLOG

Screen Time to Teen Time: How the Parenting Toolkit Keeps Evolving

12/10/2015 10:25 BST | Updated 10/10/2016 10:12 BST

Play time, family time, mealtime, sleep time, sport time, school time, homework time [breathe] and now of course screen time. But this particular segment of the family pie chart is not new and I've seen it morph considerably as my boys, now aged 15 and 13, have grown.

At first it was the Wii being replaced by the latest games console, then came the iPads and then the smartphones. Even though we place time limits on the gaming, quality family time has slimmed down considerably...but I ask myself is it just their age, is it the technology or is it their social surroundings?

We live in a tiny hamlet in rural Lincolnshire, there are no other children within 5 miles of where we live. They talk to their friends via a headset connected to the games console, by text, Skype or on social media (Facebook for the older one, the 12 year old skipped Facebook and went straight to Instagram, and so did all his friends). Maybe they are far more 'sociable' than children of the 70's and 80's? Sharing one TV and a phone attached to the wall must have led to more time spent with parents and less time chatting to friends.

But being less 'social' indoors did mean I spent more time outdoors because there were more points of discovery and creativity to be explored alongside friends than within the confines of those walls at home. Outside was your very own playground or your own tangible, wet, muddy, shiny or sunny Minecraft if you like - where every day you could create a new world with your pals.

The Polarn O. Pyret survey showed this week that parents do think screen-play is impacting on that outdoor time with 44% saying it's reducing the amount of time their children play outside. So like many of the parents in the survey I ask myself are we allowing them too much screen access? And what is too much? Is that surly behaviour the result of something they saw on YouTube yesterday or would the testosterone have kicked in anyway?

I won't know for sure, there is no rehearsal for a childhood and we keep going forward. But this virtual piece of the parenting puzzle is there and can't be ignored. And this is what inspired us to delve deeper into British family life with a survey to UK parents all about how they manage screen time within their home.

I wish I'd had access to the 399 passionate comments from the surveyed parents a few years ago. 399 unique families in unique circumstances with unique children, all sharing useful tips which may help others maintain a good balance between the benefits of screen access and a healthy family life. You can see them here: www.polarnopyret.co.uk/survey

At home our parenting toolkit on technology has been around 'set times' for access and a ban at mealtimes and bedtimes. Indeed we seem to be in the majority there with 80% surveyed saying they don't allow screens at bed time and 67% removing them at meal times.

Interestingly though, the majority of the parents in the survey are not beating themselves up over screen usage. They seem to be confident on what's good for their children but many also understand that the challenge increases as the kids get older and peer pressure kicks in. And there was a sense of this in the results of parents of 9 to 11-year-olds where reports of negative impact on social behaviour immediately after screen time increased.

As parents of Generation Z we are the guinea pig parents when it comes to the mix of play, gaming, internet, screens and the social development of our children. We don't have all the answers but we can share our stories and hopefully over time curate some trusted and objective research for the next Generation Z+1.

See the survey results and tips from other parents for managing kids screen time at www.polarnopyret.co.uk/survey