The use of screen-based activities plays a central part in the lives of many children and young people.
In these unprecedented times many parents are struggling to manage their children’s screen time.
Our children’s lives having drastically changed to being pretty much house bound meaning playing on their electronic devices is a way for them to connect with their peers and zone out from their current situation. Much of our daily routine has been converted to online resources; families are communicating online, school lessons are being delivered online, parents working from home …
As parents this is proposing challenges, due to the fact we want them to stay connected with their peers, have extra activities they enjoy… But the question is what is a reasonable amount of time considering our current situation?
Given these unusual stressors, there is no right answer when it comes to managing screen times during the corona virus crisis. If we can use screen time in a positive fashion, we can infiltrate a calmer, safer and saner atmosphere throughout our homes.
There are a few things we can do to help set expectations and support you and your child/children.
SET AND MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES
- Compassion. Letting your children know that you understand their needs to connect online will reduce their stress. So, they can know that a certain amount of screen time is theirs to do what they like with. You may like to explore some games with them, there are some great word games that can be accessed.
- Keep a schedule. Once you have set a schedule, they will push against this but within a few days of them knowing you are sticking to the set boundaries they will adjust and settle into their routines.
- Give them a role/purpose in the house. It can often be easier to just do the household chores yourself, without having to show and explain how to do certain tasks many times, however this is an important part of their development whilst also building their self-esteem. It can give them a sense of accomplishment, value and being part of the household. Age dependant this can be a variety of things, cooking a weekly meal for the family, daily chores like hoovering, stacking or emptying the dishwasher, dusting or cleaning the windows.
Make the process fun and include lots of praise and encouragement.
- Model healthy screen use. Now more than ever it is important to lead by example. If you make a point of putting aside your devices your children are much more likely to follow suit.
- Take time to get to know their interests and look at ways to enhance their experiences with this. This may be a project you do together on a chosen subject, take exercise classes together, walks, running, gymnastics, dance, bake, learn a new language, practice yoga or meditation. Easy access games like dobble, uno, top trumps or playing cards are a great connector.
A good way of accessing if your child is spending too much time online is to look at how they are spending their time in general.
- Is your child sleeping enough and eating a well-balanced diet?
- Are they getting one form of exercise each day?
- Quality time with the family?
- Do they use screen time to keep in touch with friends?
- Are they invested in schoolwork and keeping up with it?
Remember this situation is temporary and is a valuable time to connect and attune to our children. Some of us will be under immense amounts of pressure to keep jobs and families running as smoothly as possible. Try to take some time for yourself and know that we can only do our best.
By Demelza Wall