Screen Time – ‘New Normal’, New Guidelines

Date: October 5, 2020

When it comes to how much screen time a child should be allowed per day, we cannot use studies conducted before 2020 to guide us.

Since schools closed their campuses and started distance learning programs earlier in 2020, students were required to spend increased time on digital devices for learning, entertainment and socializing. With no reference on how to navigate this situation for long periods, many parents have been struggling to determine what the new guidelines for the new normal should be when it comes to recommended screen time for their children.

New studies have shown that most homes have suspended their household rules on screen time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions, with most parents saying the benefits of online learning outweigh concerns over screen time.

However, although so much has changed, some things stay the same i.e. the very real mental and physical health risks associated with too much unmanaged time spent fixated on mobile phones, tablets and computers, gaming and watching television. These range from obesity to insomnia, behavior problems to depression, and orthopedic to optometric issues.

Despite the ‘new normal’ and its heavy reliance on technology, parents can still manage these risks without impeding their children’s ability to stay up to date and on top of their schoolwork and connected with their friends.

Here are our top five suggestions:

1. Quality over quantity

With so much of the work being assigned to your child needing to be completed online and or on a digital device, understand that he or she will need more screen time than you usually allow. Familiarize yourself with your child’s online learning timetable and discuss these requirements with your child and if necessary with his or her teacher. Set up a schedule that has dedicated time for learning and dedicated time for entertainment and socializing; perhaps even restrict the number of devices being used to help keep your child focused i.e. when doing online learning on the computer, suggest the mobile device be put away to not distract him or her with calls, messages and social media notifications. 

2. Give it a rest

Insist your child takes ‘digital recesses’ between his or her various online tasks. This not only allows him or her to step away from the device and get some exercise and fresh air but it also refreshes the mind and will improve attention span.
Taking mini-breaks from staring at a screen is also important for healthy eye care i.e. look up and out of a window for 20 seconds between chapters or sections.

3. Strike a balance

The key to a healthy life, balance is also vital to a healthy distance learning program. Children should complement their online learning with reading printed books and material, doing manual tasks such as crafting, arts, exercise etc., spending time outdoors, helping with chores and having face-to-face conversations with family.

4. Sleep on it

Not only can staring at the blue light of a phone, computer, tablet or television for long periods, cause eye strain and dry eyes, but it can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Therefore, try to restrict your child’s screen time close to bedtime. Sleep is so important in the healthy development of children, make sure your child gets a good eight hours a night and preferably without the temptation of a device on the bedside table.

5. Sharing is caring

It is comforting to know that you are not alone in this; parents throughout the world are dealing with the same challenges, many in far worse situations. There is strength in community, and talking to another parent about what is working for their family may help you, just as you sharing your experiences may offer them some advice.
Connect with the AISL teacher and parent community.


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