During the days of virtual learning, children need balance with screen time
Will Hehemann, writer/editor
UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
As COVID-19 continues to spread, social distancing remains a reality for Americans, Linda Inmon, Cooperative Extension Program associate-family and consumer sciences for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. Because of this, everyone’s screen time has greatly increased.
“Children are spending an average of six hours a day in front of their computer screen as they attend virtual classes,” she said. “Teens spend additional time staring at their cell phones and scrolling through TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, as they try to make sense of life during the pandemic and stay connected with friends.”
Younger children are given the privilege of watching their favorite shows on YouTube and Netflix. Meanwhile parents have to juggle a number of tasks as they try to keep everything running as smoothly as they did before the pandemic.
“Some parents are understandably anxious about the amount of time their children are spending in front of the computer screen,” Inmon said. “They wonder how much screen time is too much. They also want to find ways to better manage their children’s habits when it comes to computers and telephones.”
First and foremost, parents should not stress too much as they figure out how to solve the problem. They can sort out issues related to household screen time by following these tips:
It is unhealthy for younger children to sit in front of a computer screen all day. Set limits that best suit your children based on what types of programs they can watch and how long they can watch them. This rule can also be used for the amount of time they play video games.
Realize the difference between academic and recreational screen time. When setting screen time limits, do not count academic screen time spent in virtual or e-learning sessions against them when they want to relax and watch TV or play video games.
Allow teens to have more say in their screen time. Their lives have been turned upside down in many ways, and they miss face-to-face social interaction with their peers. Since they cannot participate in activities that are important in their social development (sporting events, school dances and graduation), they have to resort to online communication to fill the void and discover who they are and how they belong. Work together to set screen time rules that everyone can agree to.
Put into practice one general rule: there should be no screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Children and teens should not go to bed with their phones to ensure a better night’s sleep.
Find time to enjoy activities to help everyone remain healthy mentally, physically and nutritionally. Exercising and cooking together are great ways for family members to bond.
Most importantly, keep open lines of communication with your children. They should be able to talk with you and ask for advice, even if it is uncomfortable at first.
“As we wrestle with how best to use mobile devices in our lives during the pandemic, the answers will not come easy,” Inmon said. “We can all try to do our best to feel confident and calm as we weather the storm. Families should work together to find a balance as technology becomes more intertwined in our everyday lives.”