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Always online with distance learning? Here are ways to keep screen time healthy

The worldwide pandemic has had a great effect on our lives. One of these effects is strengthening our reliance on technology and the Internet to continue our most important daily tasks, even while staying at home. Many of us shifted to remote work. Kids stopped going to school and continued their studies through distance learning instead.

On top of adjusting to the situation, juggling new routines, and keeping everyone healthy, it also became necessary to make sure our families, especially our children, don’t fall into the dangers of spending too much time online.

How much screen time is recommended per age group?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the following screen times for different age groups.

  • For babies 1 year old and younger: no screen time is recommended
  • For children 2–5 years: 1 hour or less
  • For children over 5 years old: 2 hours or less
Screen Time

However, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the average screen time of 8–12 year old American children is 4–6 hours a day. During the pandemic, this time has certainly increased because of online classes and a decreased amount of time spent outdoors.

Is it bad for children to have too much screen time?

While screens are certainly useful for keeping in touch with family and friends, teaching and entertaining children, and looking up information online, too much screen time can have several negative effects on children’s physical and mental health. Some of these effects include:

  • eye strain and vision damage
  • mood, sleep, and weight problems
  • less time for outdoor play and physical activities
  • reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
  • obesity

Too much screen time may also expose children to violent, sexual, and inaccurate information online. In addition, they can also be at risk of cyberbullying, identity theft, and online sexual predation.

What can parents do to ensure that children are safe and healthy while spending time online?

As parents, there are several things we can do to ensure that our kids remain safe and healthy even as they spend time using screens. Here are some useful tips to keep kids’ screen time healthy:

  • Preview programs, games, and apps before letting your children use them. It’s even better if you can test or use the programs, games, and apps yourself before letting your children view or play with them. There are also several tools that can help you decide what digital content is appropriate for your children.
  • Learn to use parental controls to manage your children’s access to online content. These controls let you set time limits and block or filter online content.
  • Monitor your children during screen time. Make sure that you’re always aware of what they’re doing online. If possible, discuss with your children what they’re seeing on screen.
  • Discuss and create your family’s screen time guidelines with everyone; for example, not allowing devices during mealtimes and bedtimes, or having screen-free days. Involve all family members in the decision-making process.
  • Set a good example and be a role model in maintaining the screen time guidelines that you create for your family. Stick to the rules and obey the consequences if you fail to follow them.
  • Find alternative activities, like reading, playing a sport, or going outside, that you can do instead of spending time watching screens. Gather everyone’s input on what things they’d like to do.
  • Educate your children about online advertising, the dangers of false and inaccurate information online, and online privacy and security.

In today’s world, especially during this pandemic, it has become increasingly hard to avoid screens. It is our job as parents to ensure that our children gain the benefits of using their devices and going online while maintaining good health and safety.

It can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

With proper guidance and consistency, plus the tips given above, it is possible to ensure the health and safety of our children even if they have to spend more time being online and watching screens.

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