On a normal day, a father may handover the iPad to his daughter while he wraps up his presentation or a mother may switch the television on for her toddler while she takes a quick bath. Happy parents, happy children.
But this isn’t a normal situation anymore – schools, offices and factories have shut down and families have self-quarantined themselves at home to prevent the spread of the pandemic Covid19. Children are using computers for virtual learning, games, and other online interactions so time spent on screen has definitely increased. Thus parents are now wondering “is screen time okay for our children?” If yes, then how much is too much?
HOW TO MANAGE SCREEN TIME THEN?
- Let’s start with ‘not feeling guilty’ about it: Mommies and Daddies, it’s time to loosen the reins on screen time during the quarantine and stop feeling guilty for a situation that is not under our control. Instead, consider asking whether our child is happy and not anxious or stressed due to isolation, whether our child is getting enough playtime and exercise. If the answers satisfy us, then there is less to worry about.
- Focus on ‘what’ and not ‘how much’: Instead of fretting over how many hours children are spending on screen, focus on how they are engaging with it. Online safety should be at the top of the mind. Binge watching random YouTube videos, playing violent games, mindlessly scrolling music videos that are not age appropriate are certain things parents should actively monitor. Instead, encourage children to watch inspiring movies, cookery shows, art and craft videos; Video calling relatives and friends, yoga videos and home workouts are terrific options to permit.
- Create a schedule around screen time: Allowing our children to structure their own day can not only be helpful in keeping a track of their online activity but allow them to have a sense of control. Children will be more on screens, it’s inevitable, but with a routine, we can set limits. Parents and children could arrive at a negotiated balance between reading and screen time.
- Create a gadget free zone: With parents working from home and children taking virtual classes, our dining table may turn into a mini office or couch into a cubicle. It can be helpful to have one dedicated area within the house that has no gadgets. This area can be used to do a lot of offline activities or even nothing at all. After all, lying down and staring at the clear blue sky can be equally relaxing.
- Never combine Bedroom, Darkness and Gadgets together: This is an unhealthy combination, a strict no to this even if the children disagree. In this time of crisis where we are busy handling ours and our children’s anxiety, the last thing we need is a sleep deprived irritable child in the morning. Screen time is also avoidable in the hours that precede bedtime.
- Set clear expectations: Make sure that children are aware of the current situation and remind them that these are extraordinary times and one needs to adjust. They may get extra screen time now, but they must remember that it’s a temporary phase and life will be back to normal soon.
- Encourage ‘family-time’ through screen time: Quarantine can be emotionally challenging, so why not cuddle with the spouse and children and enjoy a bit of screen-based entertainment. It can be an inspiring movie, or grooving to a dance number or even playing an age appropriate video game.
SOME POSITIVES OF SCREEN TIME DURING LOCKDOWN.
- We are now virtually connected with friends and family during this isolation phase through technology. Imagine having to stay indoors without any contact with the outside world.
- Family bonding is happening over screen time as finally we have the gift of time which was missing due to hectic schedules.
- Children’s involvement with screen-based media may also be an excellent diversion from the stress and anxiety since they are away from their friends, outdoor parks, and school.
- More screen time improves household sanity, reduces stress, and allows adults to get their work done.
Everyone has their own take on whether more time on a phone is a balm or an ailment — and their own ways of coping. The irony is that technology that was considered to create an invisible wall between people is now being used as a mode to connect to each other in this time of social distancing.
The bottom line is, that it’s probably okay to let our children spend a bit more time in front of a screen during the quarantine. Be open, yet strategic about allowing more time. Let’s take some actions but not overreact. Remember we have far more