The recent COVID-19 lockdown sent a twist into everyone’s best laid plans. Students were sent home for virtual learning, parents were sent home to balance working and home schooling. Suddenly the schedules were turned upside down and everyone had to learn how to adapt to their family’s unique circumstances. With the transition to a virtual classroom, students were required to spend additional time staying on screens to communicate with teachers and classmates as well as submit assignments and complete research. In addition to that, parents who were struggling to find the balance between accomplishing their own work responsibilities and keeping the kids out of board meetings may have relaxed the rules on screen time in order to buy a little additional quiet time. There is no right or wrong way to handle this unique situation. These are extenuating circumstances that throw all of our parenting skills out the window.
According to MedlinePlus, the appropriate amount of screen time for children over the age of 2 is only one to two hours per day. Many of the school requirements alone can exceed this threshold. Too much screen time can increase the risk of attention problems, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, vision problems and obesity. For proper growth and development, children need to be involved in their immediate environment, fostering communication, movement and hands-on learning.
While there’s no good in beating yourself up over what has happened during quarantine, there are some options to help keep the kids active and engaged in other activities, as well as using screen time in a positive way.
With the extra time at home, it’s important to make sure kids are still getting enough activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 60 minutes per day for children ages 6 to 17 years old. Without PE at school and sports practices, sometimes this can be an added challenge. Instituting family walks or bike rides or giving the kids dedicated time to play outside can help both their development as well as their demeanor. This also helps reduce the risk of obesity.
Age-appropriate craft projects can be a good way to keep children actively involved in an activity that stimulates their mind. Making friendship bracelets, coloring, making keychains, learning to cook or painting a birdhouse can help pass the time and have a tangible final product. Kids can make a friendship bracelet and send it in the mail to a friend. What a great gift to receive on the other end!
Whatever tactics you use to address your family’s situation, know that you are not alone. Families across the globe are struggling to navigate uncharted territory, and staying on screens for too long is something that can be managed. Do the best you can do, enjoy the unique moments that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and let go of everything else. We will get through this together.