How much screen time is too much?
I’m sure this scene is familiar… Our lockdown would not have been possible without Maddie and CBeebies. So how many hours a day are our children now looking at screens? We used to try to limit screen time but now it is our lifeline between our home bubbles and learning, socialising and information. It is not helpful to focus on the amount of time our children (and probably us as parents) are spending with screens as much of that cannot be helped. However, we should probably be more mindful of the balance of activities.
*Keep an eye on what is being accessed on yours/your child’s device. Online safety is even more important at the moment and we need to make sure our children are safe- it’s probably never too early to start thinking about it. See below for some practical tips.
*Encourage breaks from screens. Short breaks throughout the day, working from books or paper where possible. Young children will certainly benefit from more practical learning (such as when baking and measuring ingredients or counting lego pieces) away from online platforms
* Try to stay active as a family. Walking, cycling or heading outdoors for fresh air is so important both physically and mentally. Keeping our social distance of course!
*Try and have family screen-free time. Definitely around mealtimes but also at other times. Many children are struggling during this uncertain time and this may not be obvious without looking more carefully.
* Some days will just not be productive… and that’s ok. This has been such a strange time for us all, it is comforting for children to see that we recognise that.. Sometimes popcorn and Disney in the middle of the day can be just the right plan (even if we don’t send it in as evidence to our online learning platforms!).
*It is a good idea to pack the screens away a while before bedtime to allow for winding down (again, that goes for us parents too.. I’m definitely guilty of checking my emails one last time before bed which then leads to an overactive mind and impaired sleep!). Sleep is so important and modelling good sleep behaviour is part of this.
As paediatricians we also recognise that many children don’t have access to suitable devices to support their learning or socialising at home- while many of us struggle to curtail their use, others struggle to have access for their children.
Trying to maintain a healthy balance for our children is hard but important.