Did kids’ screen time rules go out the window with the quarantine?
The American Academy of Pediatrics normally has some pretty strict guidelines for screen time for children, but in this time of pandemic quarantine, the recommendations just became more complicated.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics has actually come out and said these guidelines should be relaxed during a pandemic,” said Pediatrician Sharon Daley, MD. “Most people don’t need more rules and regulations to follow at times like this.”
The Academy recommends no screen time at all for children under the age of 18 months, except to Facetime or Skype with grandparents. From 18 to 24 months, they recommend very minimal screen time, always with the supervision of a parent. For kids ages 2 to 5 years old, they recommend no more than one hour or less of high-quality screen time a day, again with adult supervision.
With the coronavirus pandemic, kids are doing a lot of their schoolwork online – sometime hours a day. Parents who are working from home are also tempted to use screen time as a babysitter, so they can get their own work done.
We asked Dr. Daley, who practices at Seaside Pediatrics in West Yarmouth, how living in the age of the coronavirus affects the normal screen time rules. She offered some guidelines to help parents navigate this difficult time.
Question to Ask Yourself
Here are some things she tells parents to keep in mind
- Is it passive or active screen time? “There’s a difference between sitting on the couch watching reruns on the TV versus doing something more active on your computer or iPad like a game or Facetiming with other people,” she said. Making TikTok videos to share with friends is a fun and creative thing for teenagers to do. Younger kids can create an online storybook or learn how to write a song. Scholastic books offers links to websites where kids can create art online. GoNoodle Games has a free app designed to get kids off the couch with games that encourage active movement like dancing.
- Is it social or is it solitary? A teenager playing video games alone in their room can be isolating, while watching a movie or doing something online together as a family isn’t. With kids already feeling separated from their friends, being isolated at home isn’t recommended.
- What is the quality of the screen time? Obviously school work is acceptable, but make sure other choices are educational or social as well. For example, Dr. Daley said that television physician Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been running a series of educational shows and podcasts to answer children’s questions about the coronavirus and COVID. For younger children, he ran a Town Hall style question and answer session with the characters from Sesame Street, which is very educational, she said.
- Is it age appropriate? Dr. Daley said one worried mother called her practice because somehow her daughter was exposed to pornography on the tablet from school. Violent or scary content should be avoided as well.
“Parent supervision is important to make sure the content is age-appropriate and educational,” she said. “Parents need to be involved.”
- Is screen time taking the place of other activities? Younger children would do better playing outside than watching a screen. For older kids like teenagers, it’s important to make sure they aren’t staying up all night with unsupervised screen time and then sleeping until noon the next day. Kids of all ages benefit from quality family time right now.
- Do you have a schedule to give structure to your child’s day? “I think all families benefit from having a structure these days,” Dr. Daley said. “The schedule might not be what they would have normally with a school schedule, but adhering to a schedule gives some kind of framework to our new routine.”
“Ultimately, this is a very stressful time for families,” she said. “Don’t try for perfection. Do your best. Love your kids. Keep your kids safe. That might mean more screen time during a pandemic than normal, but don’t be too hard on yourself.”