Screen time during Covid19
Hi it’s Susan McLean. Today, I’ll be talking to you about screen time. Screen time has never been a more contentious issue than it is now during Covid19. How much is too much? Should I allow my child online more? Should it be less? I’m going to go through a few things for you to consider so that you can make the best possible decision for your children. Please note, this is not a one size fits all solution because every family is different, every child is learning differently with different platforms and different levels of needing to be online. If you look at the World Health Organization guidelines for screen time, it basically says that if a child is under two years of age, there should be no screen time whatsoever.
In these times where people can’t visit family and friends. We can’t stick to those rules. Whilst we certainly don’t want a two year old in front of a screen for 10 hours a day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that two year old being on a video or a voice call with a grandparent or an aunt or uncle or close family friend.
When you look at other advice about how long should a child be online, you’ll find that it’s often very prescriptive. It doesn’t take into account that a child might need to be using an online learning platform, even pre Covid19. What I want you to do is map out what your child is doing online. A schedule is a really good way to manage their exposure to Internet based technology. The important thing is not about a number, though. The important thing is content. What are they actually consuming?
It is far better for a young person to spend two hours online on an educational platform with their class or their teacher than 30 minutes looking up pornography or other inappropriate content. So it is about context and it is about knowing what your children are doing. Never before have young people been so physically isolated. And it is vital that they keep up with their friends, their peers, relatives, grandparents, and the only way to do that is through technology.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your child having a Skype conversation with a friend for an hour because keeping those connections going is vital to their mental health.
One of the things we need to be aware of is the impact on sleep. And we know that use of screens very close to sleep or bedtime does have a negative impact on the ability for a young person to get sound sleep. Without sound sleep, they don’t regenerate, they don’t get ready and refreshed for the next day.
So certainly the rule about devices off at least an hour before bedtime is as important as it ever was before. But do give your children some slack. Don’t set your rules to a prescribed number. Look at the content. Look at the context. Separate educational and school time, then make sure they have a good dose of social time as well. Be there with them. Again, no devices in bedrooms or bathrooms. That’s asking for trouble. So those rules don’t change.
But what we want children to do is to be able to thrive to the best of their ability during these uncertain times. And the benefit of having technology in our lives at this time is it allows us to do that. It is about balance. There needs to be some time away from screens outside, walking the dog around the block, get some fresh air. That’s always been important. But make sure that your children are still developing those online connections with their friends as well as having defined time for study.
I’d love if you could join me on the twenty-seventh of May for a very special Facebook live event. It’s called BYOC. Bring Your Own Child. And this one is pitched particularly for students of primary school age. So please, parents, bring your children along, sit together and learn about what being respectful and responsible online is all about. Please visit my Facebook page to register your interest to attend. I hope to see there.