How much internet use is too much for our young teenagers?

recent study released by the University of Sydney has made a connection between internet use and the ability teenagers have in regulating their emotions. How I understand this from my own kids perspective is – the longer my child is online the harder it is for him/her to regulate their own emotions.

Now even though I believe my son is not addicted to being online, I certainly notice a change in behaviour if he has been online for too long in one day. I notice a change in mood and even the inability to regulate his response to a request from me. For example, asking him to get off being online can be met with ‘attitude’. This is when I know I have been too ‘relaxed’ with his time online.

What the research says about internet use

With over 2800 kids from 17 schools around Australia participating in this study, the results are sobering.  Sydney University’s Business School, Dr Donald was quoted saying:

“We were surprised to find the negative effects of compulsive internet usage on things like the ability to set goals and understand one’s emotions, remained stable across all four years of the study.”

The other key outcome in this research, was a suggestion that it is limited internet use that will be more effective in helping kids manage their emotional regulation, rather than learning how to regulate their emotions. That is, the less they are online the better equipped they are to develop this aspect of human development more effectively and possibly even more naturally.

How much time should kids spend on the internet

At Cue-7 Workshops we believe a healthy social media and internet use plan is the key to bringing balance to usage. As parents, what we can do is sets limits and help our kids get control of ‘themselves’ , as we can’t really control technology and its evolution.

In terms of how much time our kids should be spending online  and how much time would contribute to addictive usage? I refer back to a previous blogand the research released by McCrindle Research (in October, 2019) highlighting the recommended screen-time for a child between 2-5yrs is no more than 1hour and 5-17years, no more than two hours a day. (Australian Department of Health recommendations) However realistically this is closer to 3.5 hours during the week with an increase of 20% on weekends, taking it to 4.5hours.

The report by Sydney University did suggest that 12-months of heavy internet use is not likely to contribute to addiction, however ongoing use across the teenage years could compound the effects and impact emotional dysregulation in the long -term.

How to manage kids online media use

In light of ongoing emerging research that continues to educate us on the impact of social media and internet use, I have created a usage plan with each of my kids. It includes periods of online activity, then breaks with physical exercise. No gaming during the week and when it does occur,  it includes a maximum use of 3 hours a day. This is still over the recommended time! and it’s a work in progress most of the time!

The other important area I try and get my  kids to think about, is to question WHAT they are consuming online?  Becoming a critical thinker when it comes to consuming media, is a must for all of us. Understanding how information is ‘framed’ is key to getting some perspective online – especially in the word of instagram! Asking them questions such as; Is that true do you think? Do you think they look like that every morning? Why would they be promoting this fabulous life of theirs that way? Can everyday life really be that exciting all the time? Does having the right shoes really impact the type of person you are? Should you believe them? Why?

The Cue-7 online workshop to help manage social media use

When starting high school there is great excitement in connecting with new friends via social platforms and apps. Managing this explosion of usage and connectivity is an area of great concern to parents ( I remember feeling this acutely when my daughter started year 7). Cue-7 Workshops believes there are positive impacts to using social media for our kids, but they also must be considered in light of issues that kids will face too. I will aim to talk about the positive and negatives in more detail in a following post.

if you would like to start planning the social media use by your child in high school, visit our quick, easy and guided online workshops to help with this plan. . There are also some great resources for parents, including esafety commission.