Tips on managing the amount of time children spend online

This post is going to make me sound like a right hypocrite but I’m weighing in with the do as I say not as I do card. Mum Rights and all that. You see, I’m a mum of 3 boys who love their devices, the youngest not so much as he’s on strict and easy to govern rules, the teenagers – sheesh! But here’s the tricky bit; my job means I spend most of my working time online and when I’m not working, I’m paying bills, shopping, reading & chatting to my friends and family on WhatsApp or messenger.

I live and breathe online, even my gym and run sessions have an online element via the apps I use, which makes me preaching to my kids about managing the amount they spend online a little weird and super hypocritical.

I guess the angle I’m coming from though, is from this; I’ve seen how inactive my boys are when using the internet and they simply haven’t got the self-discipline which I have on making sure they’re balancing out their online time with some active. It’s not just about phones, Play Stations and PC’s in the home too. I’m worried about how much of actual life they’re missing out on, from the car journey conversations we don’t have as they’re glued to their screens, or the days out they’re more interested in snap chatting rather than being in the moment.

We do have rules, like no phones at the dinner table, my youngest having very limited iPad time and my 13-year-old has an hour screen-free time before bed. I’ve suggested this to my 17-year-old son but that’s the age where I’ve really had to loosen the reins. The lightbulb moment came though, after finding out that children aged 5 to 15 are spending an average of 15 hours a week on the web, my teens, rather worryingly, can easily nudge over 15 hours when they’ve added in a lazy weekend.

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use and while the framework isn’t so suitable for my 3-year-old, it is a reminder to keep his iPad time limited especially when I’ve seen the change in his behaviour when he comes off even after 15 minutes.

 

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use

So my main concerns centre around how to manage the amount of time my 13 and 17-year-old spend online while both at home and at school.

I’m starting with empowering my guys to manage their own time, helping them to be mindful of how much they use their phones (the above digital 5 a day is the best resource for this) and tasking them to:

  • make sure they have complete screen free time before bed
  • make sure they’re active and sedentary times are balanced
  • regularly talk about staying safe online

There’s also some other options to explore, including installing extra security onto all devices, like Kaspersky Security Cloud, which gives parent’s the option to manage and adjust their children’s screen time, select which websites they can see, and stay informed of their whereabouts via GPS. As much as I’d love to think my children can be trusted, it’s still my role as their parent to set boundaries.

They know how to use privacy settings, as well as the report and block functions on the websites, social media channels and apps they use. But it’s also up to me to be on top of my game. It helps that I do know a thing or two about social media, but even the SnapChat ghosting update had me surfing the web to understand it, make sure I was properly clued up and able to discuss making sure they weren’t oversharing to strangers. Ironically, it was via some Facebook posts that I found out about it!

It’s safe to say I’m a pro of the whole online world. I’ll argue the benefits of its corner to anyone, but I also see the dangers and how the flip side is one where my boys live in a virtual world more than the real one. So it all comes down to balance, in a nutshell, and using what tools there are available to help you and your kids make sure they’re getting that balance as well as keeping safe online at all times.

And if I need to bring out the mum card to remind my boys that Mother Knows Best, then I will!

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use

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A Recipe For Teriyaki Lamb Stir-Fry
I’m a huge stir fry fan. Not only are they quick and easy to whip up at the end of a long day, they’re super healthy and a great way to cram in at least 5 of your 5 a day (or 7 if you go by the current guidelines) Being a pescatarian, I tend to stick with prawn and occasionally quorn but this week I took the leap into the unknown with some lamb in honour of Love Lamb Week (1st-7th September.)
This was a total first for me, I obviously don’t eat it, but my kids are all meat eaters and with lamb steaks being easy and versatile to cook this Teriyaki recipe could be a great introduction for them. (worth noting that you should look out for the Red Tractor mark when buying lamb, as this way you know what’s happening from farm to fork!)

As it happens, it went down a storm and now I know that all 3 of my boys will eat it, lamb will be gracing our dinner table sometime soon. And if you’re looking for a quick and easy healthy meal, then Teriyaki lamb stir fry is one to try. The quantities below are enough for 2 large adult sized portions, I added a courgette and shallot to bump up the vegetables to make it go between 3 adult sized appetites and a toddler.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

350g/12oz lean lamb leg steaks, cut into stir-fry strips

10ml/2tsp rapeseed or vegetable oil

1 x 250g pack prepared stir-fry vegetables of your choice

For the Teriyaki Sauce:

60ml/4tbsp Teriyaki marinade and sauce

15ml/1tbsp light brown sugar

30ml/2tbsp lime juice

2.5ml/½tsp Chinese five-spice powder

noodles (1 nest per person)

Optional 

1 courgette

1 shallot

To garnish:

Toasted sesame seeds, optional


Method:

  1. To prepare the Teriyaki sauce; in a small bowl mix all the ingredients together  and set aside.
  2. Heat the water for the noodles (if using dry)
  3. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the lamb for 3-4 minutes.  Add the stir-fry vegetables and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, tossing frequently.
  4. Add the noodles to the water (if using pre cooked, add them to the lamb/veg mix when adding the sauce.
  5. Add the Teriyaki sauce, toss gently and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Season, if required.
  6. Garnish with the sesame seeds, if used and serve with noodles or rice.

Disclaimer

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. [I have received a voucher in return for writing this post.

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Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese

Its’s not the first time I’ve raved about HelloFresh delivery boxes, (you can read all about the time I discovered them here.) As a busy, working mum of 3, they’re an absolute lifesaver as they take the stress out of deciding what to cook and having to go buy the ingredients. I’ve just restarted my deliveries after a year break as I’ve found I was cooking the same things week after week.

I’ve only been ordering 3 meals a week so that still leaves a few days, to think up healthy meal ideas. So rather than trawl through my cook books ( that super busy mum thing again) I’ve used their new  Flavour Generator to help find some recipes. I can do all this while I’m on the site choosing my meals for the next delivery so my whole weeks meals are dun and dusted in one sitting.

It’s a great tool for helping you decide what to cook and try out some new recipes, this week I was in the mood for something Italian. You can you can choose between Italian, British, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian on the Flavour Generator drop down menu. Once you’ve decided on that, there’s more choices on the next drop down for flavour; tangy, herby, sweet or spicy. Then its spin and het presto! My Italian, herby mood brought up this recipe for Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese, it’s  a flavour full, tomato based vegetable bake with a breadcrumb top and tomato salad on the side. The pine nuts addition give it a really nice texture and best of all, you get to use up all the courgettes which are in abundance right now and  do some sneaky veggie hiding for reluctant vegetable eating kids.

Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese

Ingredients

  • half Red Onion
  •  2 Garlic Cloves
  •  1 Courgette
  •  0.5 punnet(s) Cherry Tomatoes
  •  1 ball(s)   Mozzarella
  • Tomato Passata
  •  0.75 tsp  Dried Oregano
  • 1 bunch Basil (20g)
  • 25 grams  Pine Nuts
  • 3 tbsp    Hard Italian Cheese
  • 20 grams  Panko Breadcrumbs
  •  1 Foccacia (I subbed for ciabatta)

Courgette Parmigiana with Insalata Caprese

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees. Peel and finely chop the red onion and the garlic. Slice the courgette lengthways into ½cm strips. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half.
  2. Next cut three-quarters of your mozzarella into slices, as thin as you can (keep a quarter for your salad). Press kitchen paper or a clean tea towel onto each slice to soak up as much excess moisture as possible.
  3. Add a splash of olive oil to a pan and fry your red onion and garlic on medium-low heat for around 5 mins, or until soft. Tip: You can start step 5 at the same time to save some time.
  4. Add in the tomato passata with a pinch of salt, the oregano and a few grinds of black pepper. Bubble the mixture for 5 mins, then remove from the heat to cool down.
  5. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan on high heat. Once hot, fry your courgette strips in batches. Cook them for 1 minute on each side and then keep to the side. Do not overcrowd the pan as this will stew the courgette rather than brown it.
  6. Put enough (about a third) of your passata in an ovenproof dish to thinly cover the bottom. Top this with a layer of your courgette (you should use roughly half your courgette here as you’re going to repeat this step!). Next, layer on a couple of slices of mozzarella, followed by some torn basil and half of the pine nuts.
  7. Spread on another layer of passata, followed by your remaining courgette, a couple more slices of mozzarella and bit more basil (save some of each for your salad) and the rest of your pine nuts. Finally add one more layer of passata and top your parmigiana with the hard cheese and the breadcrumbs. Bake in your oven for 15 mins.
  8. Tear up a small handful of basil leaves and the remaining mozzarella. Toss these and your cherry tomatoes in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Serve your parmigiana with your salad and foccacia on the side.
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Ticking off our Frugi bucket & spade list

It won’t be long now till the schools and pre schools kick out. For us that means no alarm clock and trying to get out and about doing something new and exciting for which I’m always up for some new ideas and inspiration. In the past I’ve  drawn up a summer holiday plan so the boys and I know what we’re doing and so we don’t get the end of the summer holidays feeling like we haven’t made the best use out of the freedom of the summer holidays.

These days, it’s much more ad hoc. The older 2 like to sort themselves out and with only left to worry about, we can do things at a little more of a relaxed pace. Saying that, I still need some ideas so the Frugi bucket and spade list is ideal. Not all are suitable for my adventurous 3-year-old, but we’ll certainly be giving the majority of them a go, in fact we’ve already started!

A week’s holidaying in sunny Sardinia saw us hitting the beach every day. Sand castle’s, sand sculptures and sea paddling were the order of the day. Along with an attempt at sand angels which anything but angelic.


And back in slightly cooler England, it was out for a morning bug hunting and puddle jumping;

bugs found = 2 – I’m pretty rubbish at getting too close to anything inspect like so we admired from a distance)

puddles conquered = 5 – note to self, waterproof trousers are a must, beige and absolute no no.

Next on our list is to get out on the water, warm weather and calm seas are the must have’s for that little adventure and I’d really like to tackle my fear of camping with a night under the stars, I just know that this little chap will be so up for a tent shaped adventure, especially if we can hook up with his cousins who also happen to have an amazing tent.

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration for things to do this summer then see if anything on the Frugi Bucket and Spade list floats for boat;

what's on your bucket and spade list this summer?

 

ticking off our toddler approved summer bucket and spade list with the help of Frugi

Disclaimer,

This is a collaborative post with Frugi 

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Reviewing The Sleep Tight All Night Bear

Sleep, babies, toddlers, blah, blah, blah. They have got to be one of the most talked about subjects on every parent’s lips at some point in their kid’s lives and I totally put my hands up, I have quite an unconventional approach to sleep. 3 babies in and I ripped up the rule book and stopped fretting about what everyone else did with my last baby and followed my son’s lead.

We co slept for 2 years as that was the only way he settled and even now he wanders into my bed most nights or mornings.  He’s a happy, sociable child and I’ve never had the sleep deprivation that I experienced with my older kids. So why am I reviewing a sleep aid device, if I don’t think my son has a sleep problem you’re probably thinking?

Well, as much as I have no problem with early morning or night-time snuggles. As a work from home mum, who’s most productive part of the day tends to be the evening. I could REALLY do with cutting down our bed time routine. In the past I can spend over an hour settling, reading and sitting with my boy waiting for him to nod off for the night. He’s such a busy little thing at the best of times and seems to pull every last snippet of energy out the bag just before he heads off to dream land.

Which is why I’m testing the Sleep Tight All Night, I was curious to see if it helped cut down bed times.


Looking light a normal teddy, it’s a cuddleable sleep aid which helps teach your child when to sleep and when to get up by using different coloured lights and sounds to differentiate day and night. There’s a selection of  soothing white noise and nature noises for night and cute phrases for day.

We started off by keeping the Sleep Tight All Night  bear downstairs in daytime mode for few days while my son got use to it, then we moved onto to introducing it to our bedtime routine. Each night, after the usual round of stories, I remind my boy to get his sleep teddy, he pull’s out the unit which sits under a velcro’s patch of material at the bottom, set the timer, then go through which noise he wanted.

reviewing the sleep tight all night bear to helpmeet toddler settle more quickly at bed time and improve our bedtime routine

After a few days or so, he’d always opt for the heart beat sound but only after he’d been through every other one. I really started to notice a difference to how quickly he settled after a week. There’s was much less resistance and tossing and turning as he went through the same routine ending with selecting his noise, putting the monitor back in the teddy and telling me the light is red so time for bed. Then laying down quietly, drifting off in half the time he’d done previously.

reviewing the sleep tight all night bear to helpmeet toddler settle more quickly at bed time and improve our bedtime routine

I’ve not seen any change to keeping him in his bed all night yet, but if I’m honest, I’ve not really enforced this as I don’t have a problem which him coming in to sleep with me as he drifts straight back off. So I can’t comment on how effective it is in that respect, that said, I will be trying it out when he’s a little older and able to understand that he needs to stay in his bed and go back to sleep.

In a nutshell, the Sleep Tight All Night teddy has cut down bed time by helping my toddler settle and wind down to relax off to sleep. It’s given my son some independence and control over his bed time routine and is now a permanent feature on his pillow, I’m hoping it helps maintain some normality when going on holiday too!

Disclaimer

We were sent this product for the purpose of this review, the Sleep Tight All Night is available to buy  from Golden Bear Toys 

 

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