A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences

Healthy Technology Use for Kids During COVID-19: What Parents Should Know

“We used to have a very good system where screen time was reserved for weekends and it was limited to maybe two hours a day,” says Maria Ramos-Olazagasti.

That was before the pandemic. Now Maria’s son Nico is on some type of screen, morning, afternoon and night. For a total of six to seven hours a day.  Dr. Jenny Radesky, one of the co-writers of the screen guidelines for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says, that’s okay.

“So, the world has changed a lot. We didn’t want parents feeling guilty or worried that their kids were going to spend more time in front of screens, because we all are. That’s how we now communicate and connect with each other, access learning, or just relax,” says Radesky.

But many parents can’t relax. What about all those warnings that parents were given just a few months ago? That a child may become less attentive because of screens? That screen time has a negative effect on social skills and sleep quality? And what will all this screen use, do to their children’s vision?

“My concern now is how we go back to our old routine, once things settle down a little bit. Once you get hooked, it’s going to be a challenge to go back to the old ways of doing things,” says Ramos-Olazagasti.

“The screen time hours question is so hard to answer and here’s why. It’s because number one, this has never happened before so we don’t have research to back up my answer. I can’t give an evidence-based answer,” says Radesky.

What she and all the experts can give, are tips and guidelines, like, don’t count their e-learning or their video chat with grandma as screen time. That’s learning and social connection time. But Do pick their entertainment media wisely.

Many videos, like this one on YouTube are designed with features that keep kids engaged for longer and longer periods, with incentives such as badges or rewards. This can quickly become a slippery slope and kids will want more and more.

Instead, point your child to programs like this one, found on www.wideopenschool.org.

“So when you go to that website, you choose your child’s age range, and then you can go to this menu of different learning options. I keep directing my patients to the emotional wellness section because they have mindfulness videos and apps. They have, different cartoons or stories that cover emotional concepts. And that’s what a lot of my patients are needing right now,” says Radesky.

Something else parents need is reassurance that all this screen time isn’t hurting their children’s health. Parents can check for warning signs like trouble sleeping, and headaches on this Common Sense Media Site: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/5-signs-of-screen-overload-and-how-to-handle-them.

Radesky says, “So I think there’s no one size fits all approach for families to take here. That’s what I’m trying to say. And I don’t want parents to feel guilty that they’re not meeting some perfect plan of how to use media. It’s very much about who your family is.”

To watch local TV news report, see here: https://positiveparentingnews.org/news-reports/relax-screen-time-guidelines-right-now/

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