The novel Coronavirus has turned many of our lives upside down. Many parents are working from home, while juggling their own schedules with their children’s school schedules. Many adults are finding that they have very little “down” time during this national shutdown and are turning to screens to keep their children occupied while they catch up on chores, work duties or even a moment to catch their breath. And with tens of millions of children out of school for weeks now, technology has become a lifeline for kids to see their friends, family, and teachers, and to do schoolwork.
Content Matters More than Ever
In interviews with CNN.com, experts advised parents to stop agonizing over how much time their children spend on screens these days.
“As parents, we get stuck on numbers, [such as] two hours of screen time,” said Alexis Lauricella, director of the Technology in Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute. “We like to have rules, but we got so stuck on the guidelines that we weren’t thinking on our own.”
For starters, virtual learning through screens or FaceTiming with grandparents doesn’t count toward the AAP’s screen time limit recommendations for children, which only further underscores the fact, according to Lauricella, that “the screen itself isn’t the problem — it has never been the problem. It was doing anything in excess.”
Instead, according to experts, parents should focus on the content of what their children are consuming as more time at home provides an opportunity for a more nuanced understanding of how children use technology.
Finding a New Normal
Again, according to CNN.com, “Mostly, teachers have observed that their students simply miss physical, face-to-face time with their friends.”
“What keeps me up at night is actually not the direct screen time but the social interaction,” Gelnick said. “That’s very, very hard to replicate on a screen.”
And as more and more states announce school closures through the end of the academic year, parents worry about the implications of kids’ long-term screen use and how they’ll ever return to their previous “ideal” screen rules.
“When things resume to some semblance of normalcy,” Lubchansky said. “I think we’ll have to find another new normal — that’s going to be some combination of what feels good for the kids (and) what feels good to us.”
Project B3 thinks it is important for all the parents out there to remember: Bending the rules right now is ok. If your kids are watching more tv than usual or are using their tablets more than ever, don’t worry too much. We are stressed. The kids are stressed. Try to make sure they are watching, playing and using quality content (not zoning out on YouTube for hours on end) and find a balance by going for walks around the block or doing exercise videos as a family. We are not encouraging families to throw all screen limits out the window, but we don’t want any parent stressing out about extra screen time right now. Hang in there. Do what works for your family in this unprecedented time.