Screen time on play dates

Categories: Technology

Play dates. They are quite a different beast to when we were kids. We didn’t even call them play dates then – you just went to a friend’s house to play!

Now they are highly orchestrated events, with snacks, activities and parental collaboration. Even the humble sleepover has upped the ante.

However, despite the increased parental involvement in our children’s social lives, there are just as many, if not more opportunities for problematic situations to arise.

One of the major issues being technology.

As a parent of two tweens, I’ve encountered my fair share of issues regarding technology at play dates and sleepovers. This has both been under my roof and when my kids have been at friends’ places.

To date I’ve dealt with several separate scenarios:

  • my child and their friend discovering inappropriate internet content
  • my child and others being shown an age-inappropriate movie
  • my child being excluded from a small group due to their personal device use
  • my child being shown scary content on a personal device
  • my child playing an age-inappropriate console game

I feel it necessary to emphasise that all of these incidents involved children and parents that I trusted and have good relationships with. In some of the instances it was a case of the kids getting up to mischief and all adults involved were mortified. Other instances were a case of different parental views regarding what’s age appropriate.

One of the huge lessons for me in all this is that each household approaches technology differently. If not managed proactively, the use of screens and devices during play dates can have ramifications.

Which begs the question – does technology really have a place at play dates?

Given my own personal experience I feel its safe to say technology at play dates and sleepovers is an absolute minefield!

Children’s technology and development expert, Dr Kristy Goodwin is inclined to agree. Along with a raft of cyber safety issues, Dr Kristy also highlights the “opportunity cost” of screens at play dates.

“Play dates are meant to be a time for interaction and for play and outdoor time. If they are on a screen it is simply the opportunity cost. They are missing out on that really valuable learning experience.”

Dr Kristy Goodwin

However, technology is an undeniably big part of the way our kids interact. They want to play their cool new PS4 game with their friends or show them their favourite YouTube clip or even just chill out and watch a movie.

So apart from implementing an all-out screen ban for play dates and sleepovers, Dr Kristy recommends a number of strategies. These include:

  • Establishing the boundaries. This involves not only telling kids but also communicating with other parents regarding each other’s rules and expectations to avoid awkward situations later.
  • Turn off the wi fi router to discourage any covert use.
  • Have a collection point for any personal devices so that access can be monitored by you.
  • “Crowd out” technology by having other activities planned so kids are occupied and don’t have time for devices.
  • Empower your kids to speak up if they are exposed to situations where they don’t feel comfortable, e.g. if they are shown inappropriate content.

These are some simple yet effective ways to reduce the complications of technology at play dates and sleepovers.

If you would like to get more tips from Dr Kristy regarding kids and technology use at play dates and at home, check out ParentTV.