During the Coronavirus Pandemic, parents are trying to figure out how much screen time children should be using while at home. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children 8-12 years old average almost 6 hours of screen time a day and teens average 9. Many parents have read the studies about how poor quality screen time can be harmful to kids. It can help to divide screen time into categories and decide some reasonable limits for your family.
Screen Time for Schoolwork
Complicating matters during the Pandemic, many children are learning remotely using the family computer to complete homework and participate in class. Obviously, this is necessary screen time. Some clear guidelines differentiating school time from other time online can help. For instance – no background TV, movies, social media, or chat programs on while they are “at” school. Just like the real thing. Consider adding fun but educational programming into their day as a way to segue out of online school. Children may enjoy virtual zoo and museum tours.
Screen Time for Connection
Video conferencing with extended family and friends helps to offset the feelings of isolation. Group screen time is a good way to model appropriate social interaction too. Participating in a small, regular amount of social screen time as a family can be healthy. Video conferencing is also a good way to get your child some outside help and support. I am continuing to conduct play therapy sessions via video conferencing referred to as teletherapy or telepsychology.
Unstructured Play Screen Time
Decide in advance what a reasonable amount of time – based on the age of your child – would be for daily unstructured play. Perhaps one free hour after school and before dinner to catch up on social media platforms or play a game. Encourage your child to talk about what they are doing so you can help them develop critical thinking skills about their online interactions.
Balancing It Out
Spending time using electronics is fine if it is balanced with other activities—playing outdoors, going for walks, bike rides, doing arts and crafts, baking, reading, board games, puzzles. Ask your children what their ideas are. We want to convey confidence that there are ways children can help themselves.