Is being online for too long harming your kids?

UAE parents are feeling guilty about spending too much time in their phones

Is being online for too long harming your kids?
Is being online for too long harming your kids?  Image #2

“Mum, you’ve been on your phone for so long now.” Has your child ever said that to you? If so, you’re not alone, as recent research from Norton by Symantec has found that more than 78 percent of UAE parents believed that they were setting a bad example for kids by spending too much time online. Shocking? Not quite...

More than half, and that’s 53 percent, admitted they had been told off by their own kids for their behaviour, a confession that sheds the light on how today’s families are struggling to enforce healthy screen time routines in an increasingly connected world.

Now widely labelled “digital-first” parents, the survey targeted 7,000 mums and dads across Europe and the Middle East (EMEA) with kids aged between five and sixteen, with the aim of outlining the challenges.

Today’s parents are embarking on a unique journey with their kids. Unlike them, kids nowadays have never lived in a world without smartphones and tablets, which has created a brand new dimension of parenting.

“Modern parenting isn’t easy,” says Nick Shaw, vice president and general manager of Norton EMEA. “The old challenges of getting kids to eat their greens, go to bed on time and do their homework are all still there, but there is an added layer of technology that parents have to navigate.”

Kids in the UAE were also found to prefer screen time over treats. It also turns out that they spend more time in front of their mobile phone screens than playing outdoors, with more than a quarter of parents saying their little ones weren’t getting it from them – claiming that their own usage was lower.

On average across the UAE, kids spend close to two and half hours of their leisure time on mobile devices every day, which isn’t quite the worst on a global level.

The UK topped the charts with British kids spending the most time in front of mobile devices – nearly three hours per day.

Conflicted much? The majority of UAE parents believe that mobile technology helps foster problem-solving and learning skills, with a large percentage saying that kids being in charge of their own devices teaches them responsibility.

But it’s not all good news, as most mums and dads also had real concerns about the potential negative impact of device usage, highlighting quality of sleep, energy levels, social skills and even mental health.

“Parents clearly see the benefit of mobile devices for their kids, but also want to enforce healthy screen routines as they see the disadvantages smartphones and tablets can have on growth,” adds Shaw.

“We all should be mindful of how much time we spend online and tackle the issue of excessive screen time, with parents setting a good example.”

Changing the rules of the game
Desperate times? More like necessary measures. Here are ways through which you can ensure you’re on the right digital track with the kids:

  • Establish house rules and guidelines, including setting limits to screen time and the type of content a child can access.
  • Encourage your kids to go online in communal spaces. It will help put your mind at ease about what they’re doing, and they’ll know they can come to you when needed.
  • Maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with them on internet use and experiences, including cyberbullying.
  • Teach kids to think before they click.
  • Look out for harmful content using web safety tools.
  • Remember to lead by example.

For more on kids’ cyber safety, visit

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