A new parenting challenge: managing screen time in a pandemic

A new parenting challenge: managing screen time in a pandemic

Health
Child struggling to lose tablet

With many kids spending more time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents are wondering just how much screen time to allow.
“Managing screen time can be a source of anxiety for parents who are already dealing with a lot of stressors because of the pandemic,” says Dr. Lucretia Carter, a pediatrician at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach. “Although it’s important to set responsible limits for kids, it’s also important to remember that media can be a positive influence when balanced with quality offline experiences, too.”

New normal

Many parents try to follow the screen time guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In light of the pandemic, however, the academy acknowledges screen time may increase as families adjust to a new normal with less in-person social interaction.

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“Rather than focusing only on time limits, I would encourage parents to increase their emphasis on making sure media use is beneficial and positive,” Dr. Carter says. “For example, find educational opportunities for children to enjoy or use screen time as a way for kids to connect virtually with friends and family.”

Guidance

Dr. Carter encourages parents to follow the academy’s advice for maintaining a good balance between screen time and other activities:

  • Use media together. Play a game with your child or watch a movie together.
  • Find educational online activities for kids to enjoy, such as story hours and craft projects. Common Sense Media and PBS Kids are two good resources.
  • Set your child up on a kid-friendly podcast or help him or her choose an engaging audiobook.
  • Encourage kids to check in regularly with friends and loved ones using video chat or social media.
  • Unplug and make time for them. Take a walk outside, play a board game, tackle a puzzle or read together.
  • Set a good example by taking a break from your own technology use. If you’re stressed by the news or social media posts, your child can sense your feelings. Walk away from the technology and do something relaxing such as going for a stroll or working a crossword puzzle.
  • Discuss with your child how much screen time is fair. Encourage your child to practice “tech self-control” so you don’t have to constantly remind him or her to log off.
  • Be aware of which websites and apps your children are visiting.
  • Handle missteps with gentle correction, using any mistakes they might make as a teachable moment.

“Digital devices have become an integral part of our world today for both adults and young people,” Dr. Carter says. “But as with anything else, moderation and responsible use are critical. Give your youngster some leeway, monitor carefully and find ways to balance screen time with other activities.”

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