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  • Worried About Screen Time Rules? Well, Don't. What Matters Most Now, Experts Say

    It is important, however, to have a conversation with your children about what they do online.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
Worried About Screen Time Rules? Well, Don't. What Matters Most Now, Experts Say
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  • How can I ensure my child’s safety online? You’ve probably wondered — and worried — about this question more often now that the new normal has given them more time and reason (i.e., online schooling) to do so.

    In a struggle to find the right answers, parents are just led to more questions, and perhaps the most common one is this: “Am I allowing my child too much screen time?”

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    Screen time vs. quality content

    A recent Facebook live session titled “Positive Parenting: Navigating The Digital World In The New Normal” brought together online safety experts and parenting advocates, including Dr. Liane Alampay, a psychology professor.

    Dr. Alampay noted research has veered away from worrying solely about screen time. “What matters more is ensuring that kids are consuming high-quality content that helps them learn new things and keeps them socially engaged,” she says.

    Dr. Alampay is the Philippines principal investigator of the Parenting for Lifelong Health project, which tests evidence-based parenting interventions to prevent child maltreatment among low-income families across different developmental stages.

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    “What matters more than screen time is what they do when they are onscreen,” stresses Dr. Alampay. “Are they learning new things?. If that is the case, there’s no reason to worry about time spent online.”

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    Dr. Alampay adds it is equally important to have a conversation with your children about what they do online.

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    Conversation on body integrity

    Stairway Foundation senior advocacy officer Ysrael “Ace” Diloy, another event speaker, echoes Dr. Alampay’s message, saying parents should not focus so much on the length of time children shift to online learning. He stresses instead on the need to have an age-appropriate conversation with children about being responsible online.

    Below 12 years old, Diloy suggests placing tech-based interventions such as blocking and age-appropriate access. But while doing so, he emphasizes the need to discuss topics like body integrity, the importance of body parts, and how to deal with strangers online.

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    When it comes to teenagers, the approach needs to be tailored to their online behavior. “Teens have more autonomy online. We have to assume some teens talk to strangers. What’s important is to make sure they know who to go to if they feel unsafe.”

    Diloy adds that parents should regularly discuss child safety online and be the role models for their children regardless of age.

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    Make use of tools and resources

    Facebook head of safety for Asia and Pacific Amber Hawkes says that while Facebook doesn’t allow users under 13, parents need to know the tools and resources available on the social platform, so their teens may be protected.

    “Parents, encourage your kids to use these settings and make your children understand what it means to post using Public and Private settings,” she says, adding that both parent and child should make it a habit to report inappropriate content.

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    To teach toddlers about online safety, Facebook worked with Child Rights Network and Stairway Foundation to launch the GIF Learning Library, a series of GIF-animated online security stories. The GIF storybooks, developed in partnership with BBDO Guerrero, are available on the Child Rights Network’s Facebook and Instagram pages for free.

    Two titles are already available in Filipino. Sarado ang Mahiwagang Kaharian and Pwede Ba I-click Ito? (English versions:Stuck in the Castle and Can I Click This?)

    Engaging kids in meaningful activities online and off

    MK and Jim Bertulfo, the couple behind Facebook groups, FHMoms and PHDads, respectively, say they try to balance their son's time online and put his energy to good use when offline.

    “Find the opportunity to enjoy time with the kids by playing games together or making Tiktok as bonding moments,” the Bertulfos shared.  

    The couple found that setting up game nights and playing together as a family helps them bond. They also arrange virtual playdates with other members of their Facebook groups to teach their kids to play well with each other. When offline, they suggest engaging kids in DIY activities that will allow movement and use of hands, art activities, and, what has worked for their son recently, are activities like boxing.

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    As parents worry more about cyber safety while in quarantine, these advocates choose to see the silver lining. The new normal is an opportunity to see how our children are reacting online. Discuss how they feel when things happen online. Build empathy and observe how the things that they do online impact their mental and physical health.

    Fathers have to take an active part in parenting. Move away from the notion that children’s schooling is the mothers’ turf. Be good role models by discussing cyber safety with your kids using good storybooks as starting points. The key is to start the conversation.

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