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Mindfully Increasing Screen Time During the Pandemic

July 21, 2020 • Our Blog • General Health
Your child’s screen time has likely increased during the pandemic. When setting new guidelines and shifting expectations, focus on quality over quantity. Though novel coronavirus-related lockdowns are being eased in most states, things are far from “back to normal.” Masks are an expectation in most public locations, countless office workers are continuing to work remotely, and summer camps and daycare centers largely remain on hold. As a result, many parents are still attempting to work full-time while also caring for their children, an already challenging balancing act that has only been made more difficult as the school year has come to an end. In this environment, it’s no wonder why many parents are easing the screen time restrictions they typically enforce for their children. In fact, on March 17, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement in response to novel coronavirus restrictions encouraging positive media use and acknowledging that children’s media consumption is likely to increase during the pandemic. That said, it’s still important to remain aware of your children’s media consumption and ensure their habits are healthy.

Using Screen Time Positively

As most of the world adjusts to a new normal, all of us are experiencing a shift in our relationships with screens. Many office workers are accustomed to spending most of their day in front of a computer, but now, even meetings, happy hours, and catch-ups with friends and family are taking place virtually. Our children are experiencing many of the same shifts that we are. With playdates off the table and typical summer activities like camp and swim lessons heavily restricted, much of their entertainment and socializing is taking place online. For this reason, the AAP’s existing screen time recommendations are increasingly difficult to adhere to. These recommendations state that children under 18 months should receive no screen time, while 2- to 5-year-olds should receive no more than one hour per day. The AAP’s COVID-era statement gives no concrete timing guidelines, but acknowledges that “kids’ screen media use will likely increase.” While a lack of concrete guidelines may be stressful, the ultimate takeaway from the AAP’s statement is that families should take every reasonable opportunity to enjoy offline experiences together, but also that, when it comes to screen time, quality is a bigger concern than quantity. Look to sources like Common Sense Media for age-based recommendations, or even opt for a livestream of a zoo or aquarium.

Communication Is Key

Allowing your child to increase their screen-based media consumption doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any rules or limits set. Try to stick to routines around when screens are and aren’t acceptable; ensure technology doesn’t interfere with family time, sleep, or physical activity. Communicate openly with your children about when and how they will use screens and devices, creating a plan together. If you have questions about mindfully increasing your child’s screen time, or about anything else related to your child’s health and wellbeing, reach out to Kids’ Health. We’re dedicated to helping your child reach their best physically, emotionally, and academically, and we’re available for any questions you may have about navigating your child’s health during the pandemic....