• Deirdre Brandner

Children & screen time during COVID-19

Updated: May 20, 2020

A week ago, the WHO (World Health Organisation) stated that video-game play is important during quarantine. Remember these are experts who once warned parents about the danger in excessive screen time and they are now having to rethink this advice. Its not that they were incorrect, but we are living in extraordinary times where flexibility and balance is going to be essential when parenting in this new domain. Like us the digital world is part of their everyday experience, our role is to assist them to learn to balance this.

Different types of screen use can have a varied impact on our brain function. Technology for communicate: This is absolutely critical during lockdown. For adolescents bonding with peers is an essential part of their development. Allowing them to have safe options to socially connect with others is vital and this is going to occur using screens. Younger children also need the chance to engage in “social play” and this might take place using games or video chats. Socialising online is the new normal and the only option available for our children to connect with others. We know that socialising and communication are the foundations for emotional wellbeing.

Technology for educating: This is the most obvious and perhaps the least exciting for you child. Even if the Zoom calls and Teams meetings are not thrilling your school age kids you can justify accessing other resources to supplement the monotony of home schooling. ABC TV Education has fabulous resources, Behind the News BTN, documentary series Blue Planet series, Audio Books, Books read online, YouTube for Information, or Google to answer a question.

Technology for creating: We won’t all have access to fantastic art and craft activities, or enough Lego sets or musical instruments to meet our child’s needs and desires during this time. However, in support of child development we want to keep them engaged in creative activities during this time. Engagement in creative activities have been known to reduce anxiety and stress. So, going online to learn how to make your own play doh, slime, origami or best ever cookies is a great use of technology. Creating your own dance, music or learning an instrument using the technology and screens is to be encouraged. Technology for entertaining: It is very important to consider boundaries. For example, a movie is watched from beginning to end, one episode is viewed then you do something else, 20 minutes of gaming if its solo, 40 minutes if it’s with a friends (online). You don’t get to watch or play games that aren’t in your age group, not in bedrooms, and no purchases. It is important that children/ teens know when they are using technology for entertainment. During COVID it is not about the time allocated it’s about the boundaries being reinforced. Remember this use of technology can be sedentary or active, individual or shared and most importantly…stress relieving for both child and parent. Technology that is harmful: As adults we know this aspect of screens, it’s the mind-numbing scrolling, social media for viewing not connecting, clicking on endless links, and the wormhole of YouTube videos. There is no engagement, positive take a ways or education and we know we are being exposed to ads, FOMO or cognitive garbage. It’s addictive, and as such we can all admit we have all lost time trapped in this vortex. Watch out for this with children!

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