Parents in 2019: “Let’s try to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for screen time.”

Parents in 2020: “Let’s try to stay afloat in this chaos. Has anyone seen the iPad charger?”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screentime for children ages 2 to 5 should be limited to one hour of supervised high quality material daily. For older children, the amount of screen time can be increased, but limits should still be in place. These are not rules the experts pulled out of thin air; they’ve studied the impact of media and are offering their best medical recommendations. Thank you, docs! 

The thing is though, in 2020 we’ve had to get more relaxed when it comes to screen time for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is keeping the peace around our homes. If you need some reassurance that extra screen time right now is completely okay, we have you covered. 

How has screen time for online learning changed?

Screen time and school didn’t go hand in hand for the majority of children in the United States prior to 2020, but now it’s more common than not that some schooling will be completed remotely. This means several hours a day in front of a computer screen so that students can stay connected to the wonderful people trained to teach them math. 

Along with standard K-12 education, there are also a multitude of online classes available for children who are missing out on their extracurricular activities. Virtual art class, streaming yoga, online music lessons — these are all valuable uses of screens to keep our children connected and learning during a trying time. 

Using screen time for family interaction

What we wouldn’t all give for a big family dinner with relatives across the country right now. But for many families, that simply isn’t an option in 2020 and technology has been a lifeline for staying connected. Video calls to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, have kept families in touch in a way that feels deeper than a phone call. So, if seeing each other's faces means a bit more time in front of a phone or computer screen, so be it!

(Also, a quick shout out to the family members willing to FaceTime with our toddlers while we attempt to cook dinner. We know that’s not easy!)

Seeing friends is important!

It’s near impossible to recreate school yard friendships over the computer. That’s not how children are meant to interact. However, with limited options that keep everyone healthy and safe, screens are going to come into play. 

For the little ones that might mean group Zoom calls with buddies for a game of freeze dance or show and tell. For middle school and high school aged kids, screen time could be online gaming as a way to stay connected. Social interaction is a critical part of growing up, so if you are feeling badly about how much time your child is using a screen, don’t. Kids need other kids, and you’re doing the best you can!

Work from home = working with screens.

Beyond the social and emotional benefits of screen time interaction for children, let’s be honest. Parents need screen time just as much as the children do. 

With parents working from home while caring for young children and helping with remote school, sometimes to get anything done you need to hand over a fully charged tablet. There are plenty of free virtual classes children can tune into while you’re in a meeting, and loads of cartoons that won't rot their brains if they're just watching for an hour. It’s okay. We’re all doing the best we can and if the best we can includes leaning on TV, don’t worry about it. This too shall pass, and you aren’t alone.

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