With the COVID-19 pandemic having closed schools, stopped children playing in parks and isolated them away from friends and family, it is perhaps no surprise that the reliance on technology has accelerated. One month into the pandemic showed a 70% increase in US traffic on apps and online services that are targeted at kids.
For many teachers and carers, managing a child’s screen time was an already pressing concern prior to COVID-19, with negative effects of screen time disrupting early childhood development. Here are a few ways to manage children’s screen times effectively, with the constraints and limitations of the ongoing pandemic in mind.
Creating a Schedule
It is important to be realistic when setting targets and managing the amount of time that your child will use technology, given that some schools are delivering lessons online and a video call to friends or family could be the only way for your child to keep in touch with others beyond the household. When deciding a screen time schedule, keep in mind the ‘essential’ tasks that must be completed online, and ensure that there is still time for your child to have their own ‘personal’ time on the device. Your child should feel that they are still able to have some access to play a game, stream a video or talk to friends because they could instead do these activities during a time that has been designated for online school activities. With this in mind, make sure that the schedule includes plenty of breaks and pauses between each screen time session.
Organizing Activities Offline
During the pandemic, working from home has become normalized, and so many families have added childcare and teaching to their job description. Whilst it is necessary to create boundaries with your children during working hours so that you can still earn money, consider spending your breaks or lunch hours outside in the garden or on a walk. This will encourage your child to put down their device, engage in physical activity, and ensure that they are still interacting and engaging in conversations offline. Where possible, try to organize a different offline activity each day with your child, once you have finished work. This could actually help you use your own time more efficiently, with activities such as making dinner together, playing a sport or washing the dishes. By doing such activities together, your child will feel more engaged and less likely to pick up their device.
Using Online Time Effectively
Even if screen time usage is not a problem for your child, you may wish to ensure that this time spent online is being used efficiently, by encouraging them to use educational apps or games that will mentally stimulate them. This technique can also be applied to video streaming devices, by finding engaging programs that will help your child learn new skills or develop their existing skills, whether this is numeracy or language.
Above all, you should be realistic in implementing any measures or attempts to manage screen time. As a parent or carer, you know how best your child learns new habits. Like with most things, you may need to implement changes gradually, so that your child can adapt and integrate the new changes into their lifestyle on a permanent basis.