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How Much Screen Time Should Kids Have During the Pandemic?

Go by the average household today and you are more than likely to find a television screen tuned in to a kids' network, a tablet that is being used to play a game, a smartphone lit up with text messages and a laptop being used for social media. As the coronavirus continues to force kids to stay locked safely inside their homes, screen time is on the rise. Parents are turning to screens to help keep their kids occupied. Children's television viewing has skyrocketed since the pandemic started. Kid-friendly channels like The Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, Boomerang and Nickelodeon are reporting that viewing has increased by 60% in just one week. Under normal circumstances, most parents limit their child's screen time. But that has changed since the pandemic started. With kids confined to home for 7 days a week, parents are turning to screens to help pass the time. And many parents are working from home, which is challenging as they try to meet the needs of their children who, in many cases, need constant attention. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement on March 17. It acknowledged that kids' screen media use will increase during the pandemic. It did not offer alternate time limits but rather stressed that screen time limits are still important and parents should offer offline experiences as much as possible. This may include things like putting together a puzzle, coloring, active games, reading, etc. Dr. Radesky, one of the doctors who helped create the statement, said, "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don’t be on it all day.”

She goes on to say “You know your child better than anyone else and are therefore the best person to decide what and how much media use is the right amount,” she said. So, for example, if your child is anxious, avoid the news or a scary video. If your child likes music, find programming that incorporates singing, like a musical with a soundtrack you can listen to later together."

For content screening, organizations like Common Sense Media offer age-based recommendations for shows for kids. And of course, online there is an unlimited amount of content. It's just a matter of helping guide kids to websites that are age appropriate. Another thing to consider. Children should be guided to shows that don't barrage their sensory experiences. You don't want to overstimulate their senses. Look for slower paced media that has a calming effect. How about video games? Many kids will engage in video games. The same standards should be applied to this as well. A great thing to do during this pandemic is to use screens to connect kids with their friends and family members. A Skype call with the grandparents. A FaceTime call with cousins. A Zoom call with their friend from school. Parents should definitely take an interest and supervise what their kids are doing during their screen time. They can also get involved by watching their child's favorite show or playing a video game with them or connecting them to their grandparents online.

Another important tip is this. Establish boundaries and communicate those boundaries to children before they start interacting with screens. This will help you avoid arguments when it's time to turn off the screen for awhile. The greatest need children have right now is their parents. It's critical that parents lead their children well during this pandemic. Spend extra time with your kids during this pandemic. Get more involved in their lives and look for ways you can help your kids cope and adapt to this new reality. Dr. Radesky said this "If you’re feeling overwhelmed and scattered, find time for activities that help you calm down, think more clearly and be more emotionally aware and curious about what your kids need. Those are the qualities that are going to help our kids adapt better to this situation.” Parents, we are praying for you. We are pulling for you. We are here to partner with you. Take full advantage of the extra time you've been given with your children during this pandemic.

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