Should you Manage your Child’s Screen Time During the Pandemic?

Parenting advice for the pandemic is a new cottage industry. Every day, there are new ideas about how to keep your kids physically active, help them to be compassionate towards others, stay safe, and cope with homeschooling. I am often asked to provide parenting advice to my patients (and of course I am an expert in all areas–just ask my 5 kids…haha!). However, I do claim to have given a great deal of thought to how parents should approach their children’s screen time and to how you should manage your child’s screen time during the pandemic. And during the pandemic, the rules have definitely changed.

I have written extensively about this topic on my Psychology Today blog. To summarize my many articles, my advice to parents is to loosen up on limits, especially if it keeps your kids safer, happier, and engaged. But at the same time, the goal of a healthy “Play Diet” where physical, social, creative, and unstructured play are core components of your child’s daily activity is crucial. Other experts such as Jordan Shapiro and Anya Kamenetz are also encouraging that parents look at the reality of the pandemic and adjust as necessary. The bottom line-as is often said,-“we are in unprecedented times”, and parenting during the pandemic is likely to be trial and error. Keeping your kids safe, engaged in learning, physically active, outdoors as much as possible, and connected to friends and family are the main goals. If they happen to spend more time on screens playing video games with their friends, engaged in social media that keeps them connected to peers that they do not “see’, and using their technologies to keep their brains active, that may be the best you can do.

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  • However, if you are having doubts about too much screen time in your home, you may want to give some thought to what might help you to manage your child’s screen time during the pandemic.  Here are some excellent perspectives on tools and strategies that will help.

    • 9 Secrets to Managing your Child’s Screen Time by Great Schools. Great Schools offers parents a wealth of information about education and child development. This article encourages parents to find their own values and to search for media that is high quality and engages their brains.
    • 4 parent-tested systems you can use to limit screen time by Claire Gagne from Today’s Parent. Parental guilt about letting kids get too much screen time is a common phenomenon and this article gives some suggestions about what to do. Includes the idea of having “binge days”.
    • Simple Tips for Setting Effective Screen Time Limits by Kelly Bartlett of Green Child. Recognizes that some kids will “suffer” when restricted from screen time and describes the value in kids finding their own activities.
    • The Best Technology-Screen Time Contract For Kids by Sean Grover, LCSW. Excellent template for communicating with kids about screen time limits. What’s cool about the contract is that it can be easily modified to fit families with different needs.
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