Modern technology gives us many things.

Norton’s social experiment to help a family manage their children’s screen time

Being a parent in this digital age has its challenges including monitoring your kids online behaviour so internet security company Norton conducted an experiment to find new ways of managing internet use in your home.

The Raising Digital Natives social experiment was run in collaboration with Dr Joanne Orlando – psychologist and leading expert on family and digital lifestyle.

A recent Norton Cyber Security Insights Report showed that 80 per cent of parents worry their child will be bullied online while 88 per cent are also concerned their children engage in too much screen time with the concern (82 per cent) they may give out personal information will be lured into meeting a stranger (74 per cent).

The reality is three quarters of Aussie kids using the internet are unsupervised and two thirds of parents do not limit access to certain websites or apps.

The Kirkwood family were part of Norton’s social experiment to manage their children’s screen time

Only a quarter of parents are actually supervising their children online.

“This generation is growing up as digital natives, which means unlike their parents, they’ve never known a world without the Internet. They’re always online, always connected, and often have a greater understanding of technology than their parents do,” explains Dr Joanne Orlando.

“This shifts the balance of power between parents and children, making the prospect of tackling the issues of screen time and online behaviour daunting. It’s important we find a way to give that power back to parents.”

Excessive screen is usually the result of boredom and could lead to “zombie scrolling” – a habit of mindless scrolling of social media sites which can have an isolating effect.

And of course, when everyone is on their phone, it interrupts family time and causes disconnection and tension.

For the Raising Digital Natives social experiment, Norton worked with Sydney-based family the Kirkwoods from Kings Langley to understand their online activities are reduce screen time for three of the family’s children – Hailey (15), Tia (9) and Robbie (7).

The experiment started with an initial meeting with Dr Joanne to see where the family is at in terms of their cyber pain points and to create an easy to follow action plan to run over the school holidays.

A monitoring app was placed on Hailey’s phone while time allocations were set for Tia and Robbie with alternate activities recommended to keep everyone entertained when springtime was turned off.

Another task was for each child to take alternative nights to help with dinner preparation while the others were completing other activities or talking with the family.

During this time, social media was banned while the rest of the internet remained accessible.

The result was an increase in family interaction and engagement.

The start of the experiment included arguments and tension as everyone tried to adjust to the changes.

Previously the house was quiet because everyone was away on their devices doing their own things and locked away in their own bedrooms.

But the experiment turned out to be a huge success and it made the Kirkwood family realise they enjoyed spending time together and by the end they were less dependent on their devices and felt like a new family.

Dr Joanne Orlando

“We wanted to be involved in this experiment to get our family back,” said mum Simone Kirkwood.

“At first, I was a little worried that we wouldn’t enjoy spending time together as a family but once we settled into a new routine, we found that we had more fun together and were naturally less dependent on our devices.

“We interacted like we never did before and have found our new family identity as a result. That was the best part.”

Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director, Norton Consumer Business, Symantec APJ said: “At Norton, we believe education is an essential component to ensuring Australians are protected online.

“The Raising Digital Natives social experiment shines a light on the challenges parents are facing in today’s digitally connected world, encouraging them to open up to conversation about online behaviours and helping reconnect families.

“Putting strategies and tools in place encourages children to use technology with purpose and empowers parents to better understand their children’s activity, as well as manage the time spent online”.

Here are Dr Joanne Orlando’s Raising Digital Natives top tips:

1.Educate your child about online safety
Don’t just tell them to be careful, show them why they should be cautious online. One of the best ways to approach this is to regularly do something with your child online that they enjoy doing like play a video game together or search online for something that interests you both. Explain where the risks are as you see them including advertising, video game chat rooms, social media risks. Use a tool such as Norton Family Premier to monitor usage while having these positive and educational experiences.

2. Don’t think of technology as an ‘extra’ part of parenting
Your approach to guiding technology use is important. Establish rules and guidelines for the family to follow and stick to the rules as you would any other family rules.

3. Avoid ‘technology’ double standards
Ensure that you model the behaviour you want to see in your kids and the healthy attitude they should have toward technology and the internet.

4. Focus on screen quality not screen time.
Often we think of healthy technology use in terms of time, but quality screen time is just as important. Thirty minutes spent creating artwork on screen could be more valuable than thirty minutes spent playing a video game.

5. Keep parent-child social media posts positive
You are creating your child’s digital identity from the time they are born – and what you post can never be taken down. Ensure all your social media posts about your child present them in a positive way.