2 min read
Young child laying on a bed watching TV.

COVID-19 has shifted lives in major ways. One noticeable change is an increase in children using electronic devices. With schools now offering more online classes through a variety of methods, screen time for children has increased. Many parents are also spending more time online working from home.

Before COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that children ages 8 to 18 spent 7.5 hours on digital screens each day. Whether working on a computer, playing video games, engaging in social media, or watching TV, individuals and families could spend the whole day overusing technology, which can lead to numerous health and behavioral problems.

Screen Time Problems

  • Vision. Long periods of screen time cause eyestrain, blurry vision, eye fatigue, and headaches.
  • Obesity. Watching television, playing computer games, or scrolling on your phone reduces time spent engaged in physical activities. Being inactive can lead to weight gain.
  • Sleep problems. Too much screen time can negatively affect the amount and quality of sleep. Without sleep, the body cannot produce natural hormones needed to fall asleep.
  • Behavior problems. School-age children who watch TV or use a computer excessively are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.

How Much Is Too Much?

The CDC recommends limiting screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day. With social distancing, this recommendation is now unrealistic because adults and children are spending more time in front of screens teleworking and distance learning from home. The time needed to complete work and classroom assignments each day should be allowed. However, additional screen time should be monitored and limited. Try managing screen time by balancing regular breaks with offline activities.

How to Manage Screen Time

Family walking in the woods.

  • Limit use. Set limits on technology unrelated to school or work. Use a device timer to shut down screened devices after a reasonable time. At bedtime, have children store and charge digital devices in a central location and remove televisions from bedrooms.
  • Set technology-free times. Set times when the use of smartphones or laptops is not allowed. Use this time for quality moments with the family. Enjoy a dinner, play indoor games, or solve puzzles together.
  • Find ways to be creative. Have a family paint night. Create a physical family tree with photos. Set up a family fort with pillows, sheets and boxes, or start a knitting, crocheting, or sewing project.
  • Be physically active. Go for a walk or bike ride in the neighborhood. Stream family-friendly workouts or take a hike in a local park. Or why not roller skate, go on a scavenger hunt, or dance to everyone’s favorite music? Housework is also a great way to burn calories. Set a time limit and assign everyone a room to speed clean.

 

Visit the CDC’s Screen Time vs. Lean Time Infographic for other age-related ideas on how to reduce screen time.

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