Are you worried your kid spends too much time in front of a screen? Lockdown made us all turn to television, video games, tablets, and cell phones more than usual.
If you’re struggling to fit your child’s spare time into existing screen time recommendations, you’re not the only one.
With the current social distancing guidelines and limitations, it can be hard to keep your kid entertained without offering them a piece of tech. It can be especially hard if you or your spouse are working from home - in front of your computer screens. As you can imagine, you are setting an example.
But, at the same time, it’s a lot easier for you to get on that Zoom call with your colleagues while your kids are glued to the video game or another episode of their favorite cartoon.
Until this situation happened, hopefully, most of you had a relatively easy time following the media exposure guidelines. Suddenly, it became a matter of question - is it OK to let your kids spend more time in front of the screen under these circumstances?
Dr. Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician, and expert on children and media at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital says it’s not necessarily a bad thing. (source: nytimes.com)
While children do spend more time watching cartoons and playing video games during the pandemic, they also have certain needs.
That’s why it’s important to distinguish the content and context of the time they spend in front of the screen.
School Kids, Tweens, and Teens
School kids need to connect with their teachers and classmates, so that’s something you should leave out of your usual guidelines when it comes to screen time.
They also need socialization and communication with their peers. Playing games like Fortnite or Overwatch can help when real-life interactions are limited. As a parent, you can connect this media interaction with real-life experience. Communicate by showing curiosity and genuine interest in what they do. Ask specific questions about their progress, or if they’ve learned something new. They’ll probably be excited to tell you all about it.
Here is another example of how virtual experience can become an offline activity. Watch DIY tutorials and videos, and recreate them with your child - or let them get crafty alone if they are old enough. This way, screen-time will be used for nurturing your child’s hobbies or creating new ones.
If you want to make the most out of the time spent watching movies and cartoons - here’s an idea of how to make the most out of it and not let it be another waste of time. Get in touch with other parents and organize a virtual discussion about a specific movie or animated movie of their choice.
The idea is that each child watches the movie, and tomorrow meet with the friends online to discuss their experience, opinions, analyze the characters and so on. These kinds of open discussions are great for developing your child’s critical thinking, communication skills, and the ability to explore different perspectives.
Younger Children and Toddlers
These little ones are harder to keep engaged in an activity - be it online or offline. One minute they’re dancing to their favorite songs on YouTube, and the next one they’re crawling around your feet while you’re trying to wrap up that Zoom meeting with your team.
In this case, we can’t think of a better ally than Caribu, the app that lets children connect with their grandparents (or a distant parent, a relative) in a meaningful way. By meaningful we mean engaging together in activities such as reading, learning, playing games, and coloring. A real virtual “play-date”.
Offline Alternative to Keep Your Kids Engaged
Find a pen pal for your kid
If you had one in your early youth, you surely remember the excitement of writing a letter to your pen pal and waiting for theirs in return. Kids today are used to instant gratification, so this is something that will teach them about the process of building a relationship, patience, and gratitude.
Finding a pen pal for your kid has many other benefits, like:
- Improve communication skills, writing, grammar, spelling, and reading. Possibly learn another language or get an interest in learning it.
- Build relationships with other children, learn about a different way of talking, thinking and diversity
- Learn about other cultures, habits, interests, and customs.
It was expected that kid’s screen time during a pandemic will increase, so it’s still important to set some limits. But, don’t beat yourself over trying to meet some new standards, and don’t feel guilty. Instead, listen closely and focus on your child’s needs, and see which can be met virtually, and where you can offer an equally satisfying offline experience.