2020 (and still going…) forced us all to stay home to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Safety is definitely the number one priority, but it wasn’t without one very big pitfall – Screen Time skyrocketed.
As if we needed more to be guilty about as parents, especially in these extremely stressful times, screen time has become a major bone of contention in almost all homes. Traditionally, parents have had the upper hand because teens and kids were primarily using screens for fun and entertainment purposes, but Covid-19 changed all that. The pandemic introduced screens as the school replacement. They became the primary way of contact with the world beyond your walls and how we communicated with friends and family. This meant all screen time “rules” essentially went out the window.
What was the average screen time before Quarantine?
It’s been proven that teens and kids spend around 4-6 hours per day on the screens for entertainment (TV, mobile, tablet, computers). That’s almost a quarter of their day…I’m scared to add up what it equals now with distance learning and staying connected to friends and family! Worse, some researchers have found that screen time is up almost 500% due to the pandemic.
How is this affecting your household?
As challenging as this is, it doesn’t seem to be going away too soon, so take a deep breath and remember that we are all in the same boat. You and your child are having the same battle as everyone else, everywhere else. As parents we all know that there will be some ramifications from spending so much time staring at screens. We are worried about eye pain and the inability to focus or concentrate properly which can lead to long term issues. Neck pain and joint stiffness can lead to headaches, soreness and back issues. What worries me the most is that this forced physical isolation can also lead to feelings of psychological isolation, so we’ve been lucky to have these screens to stay connected but it doesn’t replace the value of physical interaction. It’s a viscous cycle and finding the balance is really hard, but remember that when you are on a screen, you are isolating yourself from those in your house.
The best we can do right now is be aware of what’s happening, learn a few tips to take the much needed breaks and get creative to find other ways to pass the time.
And remember, same rules apply to us parents as well! 😏
Tips to manage your kid's screen time
► Turn screens off one hour before bedtime - the light coming from the screen can cause some children to have trouble falling asleep. Our eyes need time to adjust and stop the stimulation, so all screens should be turned off at least one hour before bedtime to get optimal sleep.
► Screen-off during mealtimes - while the kids are on the table eating, always remember to turn off the screens. Try and communicate with them and connect with each other. When screens are on the table, they will be distracted and less engaging during family time.
► Turn off the screen when they aren't using them - screens are like magnets, don’t let the incessant beeps & buzzing distract kids when they are playing elsewhere. So let them stay focused on the activities by turning the screens off.
► Schedule “screen-free” times - go ahead and create a schedule and clearly outline when the screens are not permitted. Be sure that your kids respect the schedules and make them pay attention to them.
► Use the devices when necessary - try to make your kids only use the devices when necessary, for example, for educational purposes or limited social media needs.
► Write Cards & letters – instead of relying solely on a screen for connection, you could change it up and start writing card and letters to your loved ones so they get a surprise in the mail.
► GO OUTSIDE – the best medicine for all - fresh air and sunlight!!