Remember the days when you were worried about your children spending more than two hours a day on screen time? So here it is 2021 and hybrid and virtual learning are still going strong. Parents realized a while ago (perhaps reluctantly) that the “old” screen time guidelines set by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) aren’t particularly realistic right now.
Still, the combination of parents working from home, students learning from home, and many of the usual outside activities being unavailable is resulting in children spending a lot of time on laptops, tablets and phones.
To help preserve everyone’s sanity, here are some tips for managing the increased screen time:
Lead the way
Set a good example by following the behaviors you wish to see in your children. Set clear boundaries for media use and follow them as a family. Be careful about unintentionally setting a bad example. (After all, you’ve most likely been cooped up too!)
Create a screen time limitation plan
Set distinct rules about screen time and how, when, and where your kids can use the internet. Discuss these boundaries and rules clearly with them. You’ll most likely be viewed as the bad guy, so be sure to clearly explain why limitations around screen time/online activities are necessary.
Stay on top of online learning resources
It’s important to know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using for remote learning. Do your own homework on the technology your kids use. Close to 100,000 apps are labeled as educational, but are the ones your kids use truly beneficial to learning?
Engage with your children when they’re using screens
Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. As much as you can, try to participate in your kids’ distance learning activities. Don’t just monitor their online activities; be a part of what they’re doing. It will encourage bonding and learning.
Stay in touch with teachers
Contact teachers about educational online and offline activities that are right for your child.
Preschool teachers may not have an online curriculum to share, but PBS Kids is a great source of educational entertainment. For school age children, Common Sense Media gives parents a review of exactly what their children will encounter in pop culture TV/movies so they can determine if it’s appropriate.
Create a balance between online and offline activities
Screen time can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family time, outdoor play, exercise, unplugged downtime, and sleep. So set limits and encourage physical leisure time.
Take advantage of the benefits of social media
Social distancing can be isolating. If your kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats or social media to stay in touch.
Encourage your kids to virtually check in
on grandparents, friends, neighbors and others special to them. If your schools are closed, find out if there are ways to help students who need meals or internet access for at-home learning.
Don’t forget about fresh air and exercise
With so many hours of screen time, it’s important to remember children still need about 60 minutes of exercise per day. Indoor exercise and yoga videos for kids are a great way to burn up some energy. Alternatively, most outdoor play can be done if social distancing is observed and children in the same household play together. Extra points for making this a regular part of your day!
Take your child (virtually) to work
Working from home? Use this time as a chance to show your kids a part of your work world. Think of ways they can be your “helper.” It’s like “Take your child to work day” right from your home.
Create tech-free zones
Encourage more focused family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep by keeping mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, as well as children’s bedrooms screen-free.
We hope you find these tips helpful. And we’re even more hopeful that it won’t be long before we won’t need them anymore!