Kids and Screen Time During COVID-19

Rules about screen time are usually pretty strict in our house, but everything is changing in the face of COVID-19. Up until now, screens weren’t allowed on weekdays, when my sons were busy after school with sports, lessons, family time, and homework.

When school was cancelled due to COVID-19 and our sons requested daily screen time, my first reaction was, “no way!” But these times demand flexibility.

One of the advantages of allowing more screen time is that it gives our sons some much-needed relaxation as well as a way to connect with one another and with friends. The reality is that much of our life is happening on-screen now. Group gatherings and activities on Zoom, FaceTime, and other platforms can be constructive, educational, and uplifting. People are “gathering” for fitness classes, happy hours, cooking lessons, trivia nights, book clubs and even sing-alongs. In addition to playing video games and watching movies and tv, our sons have been talking with their friends on their phones a lot to try to connect.

To create a new plan for screen time, my sons collaborated to come up with a request and then we discussed it as a family.

Here’s a useful tool for developing a plan that your family can agree on. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#home. You may also find this article including additional tips to consider as you renegotiate screen time helpful as well: https://qz.com/1819866/how-to-manage-your-kids-screen-time-during-coronavirus/

Decisions about how much screen time is appropriate will vary based on your family values, child’s needs, age, and other individual factors. An agreement, in writing, can be helpful to set clear expectations and refer to as needed. I had my boys sign it and we posted it on the refrigerator.

Along with new rules about screen time at my house, we also made a schedule for homework, chores, outside time/exercise, learning new things, and family time. This has helped my sons to structure their days and maintain a healthy mix of activities. You may want to suggest that schoolwork takes place each morning while your child is alert and focused.

Don’t forget to add some family chores on your schedule, and involve your child in the selection process. Chores can actually provide a huge benefit to building executive functioning skills and physical breaks. Click here for more on chore by age.

Here is a blog with sample schedules and PDF to download.

As most of us are spending plenty of time with our kids right now, there are many great opportunities to practice this type of collaboration and problem solving. And guess what??? This is all part of social-emotional learning! So hang in there and keep up the good work!

For more activities to inspire you to embrace more of these everyday teachable moment and build social, emotional and executive functioning skills that can be easily adapted for kids of different ages and abilities I’m offering my book, Make Social Learning Stick! at 50% off this time of sheltering with our families and stay tuned for our upcoming parenting course-Make It Stick Parenting!

If you have ideas about screen time or other tips to share, we’d love to hear from you. What’s been helpful in your home? Please share your thoughts and questions on our Facebook page.

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