Parents do try to set rules and time limits

A boy using a mobile device attached to a selfie stick at a dinner session.
A boy using a mobile device attached to a selfie stick at a dinner session. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Parents told The Sunday Times they try to impose some control on their children's use of devices.

This includes setting rules and time limits and checking their children's messages and browser history.

A 2016 study here found that 12-year-olds spend almost 46 hours a week - over 6 1/2 hours daily - in front of a screen. Even nine- year-olds do so for more than 24 hours a week, or some 3 1/2 hours daily.

Parents interviewed believe that taking mobile devices away from their children or stopping them from going online may backfire.

Madam Michelle Low, an assistant manager, has two children - a daughter, 12, and a 2 1/2-year-old son. At 10, her daughter owned a cellphone and a tablet. "It is more convenient for us to contact each other. We cannot hide our daughter from this era," said Madam Low, 42, adding that her daughter knows she can approach her if anything online makes her feel uneasy.


Her daughter also uses social media sites, such as Instagram. "It is their way of connecting with one another. I prefer her to be very open with me, rather than secretly doing things behind my back," she said.

Besides informing his two sons aged 11 and 14 of online pitfalls, creative manager Peter Ong, 47, sets rules for them. These include no posting of unnecessary comments on social media and not adding strangers as online friends. He also created a schedule to limit their use to under two hours daily.

His older son, however, has more freedom to use his phone in the evenings. Both children have hand-me-down iPhones. They use them mainly for communication but also play games on them.

"Unfortunately, these devices are here to stay," Mr Ong said. "Cutting them off is difficult as they have WhatsApp group chats with their classmates, so the best way is to teach them how to use the devices responsibly."

Housewife Jody Tay, 45, who has two children in primary school, said parents have to understand their children. "It involves talking to them about their lives, both online and offline. There is only so much we can do. At the end of the day, we just have to trust our children to make the right choices."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Parents do try to set rules and time limits'. Print Edition | Subscribe