Teenage screen time: tips for balance

Teenage screen time: tips for balance

Screen time for teenagers: part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle

Screen time can be part of a healthy lifestyle for teenagers when it's balanced with other activities that are good for your child's development and wellbeing. Getting the right balance also includes making sure screen time doesn't interfere with sleep.

Our tips can help your child use screens in a balanced and healthy way.

1. Use rules about screen use

You can help your child find a balance between screen use and other activities by working with your child on some family rules or a family media plan.

Rules might cover:

  • where your child can use screens - for example, only in family rooms, not in the bedroom at night, or not in the car
  • when your child can use screens - for example, mealtimes are free of TV, computers and phones, or no screen time until chores and homework are finished
  • how your child can use screens - for example, for making a podcast or watching a TEDx talk, but not for watching epic fail videos
  • how you handle screen time for children of different ages - for example, there might be some games that your older child can play only when her younger sibling is out or has gone to bed.

It's OK if your rules include time limits to help your child balance screen time with other things like physical activity. For example, it might help to know that Australian guidelines say pre-teens and teenagers should be physically active for at least one hour every day.

2. Aim for short screen time sessions

Getting up and moving around is important for your teenage child's energy levels, development, sleep, and overall health and wellbeing. Sitting still for too long without a break isn't good for your child.

When your child is using screens, it's a good idea to encourage him to use screens in short bursts and to take a break every 30 minutes. For example, you could suggest that your child:

  • uses a timer to set breaks in sessions longer than 30 minutes - encourage your child to get up and move when the timer ends
  • makes use of natural breaks - for example, encourage your child to move around when he finishes a level in a game.

3. Make physical activity part of your child's day

Physical activity keeps teenage bodies and minds fit and healthy. Your child needs at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. This might include everyday activities like walking or riding to school, sports like netball and football, or organised fitness activities like exercise classes, swimming and running.

For many young people, physical activity doesn't just happen - you need to plan the balance between it and other activities, including screen time.

4. Look into extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities, interests and hobbies are good for your child because they give her the chance to meet new people and develop new skills. This means they're a great way to balance screen use.

Extracurricular activities can be just about anything your child enjoys outside school, like sport, drama, Scouts and Guides, or hobbies like craft or photography. They can also be things you've encouraged your child to do, like language classes, music, debating, religious instruction, swimming, community activities, or paid and unpaid jobs.

5. Encourage socialising and friendship

Even if your child uses social media to keep up with friends, it's good for him to socialise face to face too. Being with other people helps your child develop social skills and gives him a social group to do new things with, especially things that are different from what your family does.

You can support your child's face-to-face friendships by making sure your child feels comfortable inviting friends over and giving them space in your home. You can also help your child plan social activities like sport in the park or a trip to the movies.

6. Avoid screen time before bed

Teenagers need 8-10 hours sleep a night.

Using screens before bed can affect how quickly your child falls asleep. If your child avoids mobile phones, tablets, computer screens or TV in the hour before bed, she's likely to get to sleep more quickly.

Read more about teenage sleep.

7. Keep screens out of bedrooms at night

If you keep mobile phones and other devices out of your child's bedroom at night, he won't be able to stay up late playing games or messaging friends. This can also stop your child being disturbed in the night by notifications, messages or calls.

Teenagers use screens for schoolwork, entertainment, socialising and more. They often spend a lot of time on screens and regularly use more than one screen at a time. Healthy screen habits help your teenage child make better choices about when and how to use screens in her free time.