Ali Mau: There are better ways to protect kids than limiting screen time

OPINION: It turns out we as parents are really not very good at policing the amount of time our kids spend in front of screens.

A survey by the University of Auckland - ironically conducted on digital devices - showed that very few high school (16 percent) and primary school (37 percent) students have any limits on the amount of time they're suing screens when they're at home.

The numbers of parents supervising their kids directly - and that means being in the same room with them while they're online - is equally small.

I understand this completely and I think you probably do too, even if we're not exactly comfortable admitting it.

If you've got two, three, four kids in the house it's impossible to keep a close eye on what they're watching or looking at and for how long, particularly as most kids do homework on their devices these days as well and what parent can argue with homework?

On the other hand, just to make us all feel more guilty than we already do, the Ministry of Health suggests that school aged children spend no more than two hours on screens - including TV - each day.  Setting those kinds of limits is really hard!

I think in the end you have to think laterally about what you're trying to achieve here. What are the dangers of screen time? Obesity and lack of physical fitness for one; pornography use for another.

I reckon the negative aspects of those things can be tackled in other ways. If your kid, like mine, is playing in excess of about 15 hours of basketball a week, and school soccer on top of that, then you pretty much have the physical fitness bit covered.

If you're talking regularly to your kids about healthy relationships and how they need to treat all people with respect, then you're doing your job in that area.

Add to that regular roster of chores to do around the house, a family dinner with everyone at the table as many nights as you can, and you have a better opportunity to make sure the limits you're not setting on screen use don't end up biting you on the butt.

Alison Mau hosts RadioLIVE Drive from 3pm-6pm weekdays.

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