With a summer overshadowed by COVID-19, parents are taking a hard look at how to make the right decisions regarding their kids’ increased reliance on screens— which are helping to maintain a sense of normalcy during this socially-distanced time— while also finding the right balance with other important activities. TV, streaming platforms, and app downloads have all seen notable increases in their use since the pandemic started, and children’s television viewing has also skyrocketed as parents across the world are increasingly turning to screens and technology to entertain and engage their kids.
To get further insights into kids’ screen time habits and behaviors during the pandemic, Brainly— the world’s largest online learning community for students, parents, and teachers— surveyed 5,000 U.S. students (grades 6th-12th, ages 11-18) on its platform. Some shocking insights were discovered. Consider this: About 25% of kids spend more than 9 hours every day looking at a screen. That screen time has led to just over 50% of students reporting headaches, soreness, and dry or irritated eyes. Since the pandemic began, students said they are spending at least 50% more time in front of screens daily.
Given the unprecedented situation we are facing which has brought on copious new challenges, the traditional boundaries and limits for screen time need to be reassessed. So, how can parents handle screen time during the pandemic? Eric Oldfield, Chief Business Officer of Brainly and father of two school-age daughters, has a few tips for parents to consider when deciding the best course of action.
- Not all screen time is created equal. It’s important for parents to assess how their child is spending their screen time with this in mind. Consuming content to gain information and get creative, as well as collaborating or socializing with their peers, is a great way for kids to maintain connections and continue learning during this unique time. However, time spent playing non-educational video games and watching mindless TV should be more closely monitored.
- Designate specific times the entire family unplugs. To avoid battles, it’s best to establish and communicate boundaries before your children start using devices, and sticking to those limits as much as possible. Children, especially younger ones, often crave structure, especially during unpredictable times. It’s still good, for instance, for everyone to eliminate screen use for at least one hour or two before bedtime to avoid impacting sleep cycles.
- Make sure screentime consumption is done healthily. Parents may want to consider having their children use blue screen glasses or switching their computer display screen settings to make sure their eyes are protected from harmful blue light. It’s also a good idea to ensure kids don’t sit too close to the screen, get up for a break at least once an hour, and sit with good posture while on the computer for hours on end doing schoolwork.
- Come up with a plan that makes sense for your children. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else and are therefore the best person to decide what and how much media use is the right amount. Remember that screens are no longer the enemies of social interaction, learning, and productivity. Rather, they are enabling people around the world to work and learn and communicate with others during this uncertain time. The real enemies of healthy development in children are the same as adults: a sedentary lifestyle, social isolation, and distractions from schoolwork and learning. Using screens too much can contribute to all of these problems – but they can also counter them.
The COVID-19 pandemic could last for a long time, so as families create new routines, it’s always best to focus on habits that are practical and sustainable. Above all else, don’t feel guilty about turning to screens more than you used to. For more tips and information on healthy screentime habits, visit www.brainly.com/insights.