Managing Screen Time For Kids During and After Circuit Breaker
Let’s take a look at what works during this extraordinary time, what you need to be careful of, and how you can manage your child’s screen time after this period ends.
When it comes to parenting, there is never a one-size-fits-all approach. From diet and nutrition to house rules and discipline, there are bound to be different schools of thought and managing screen time for kids is no exception. It works well for some parents while others are warier of it but one thing’s for sure – the circuit breaker period has led to a natural increase in reliance on digital devices for children’s entertainment and education.
But don’t fret because increased screen time is not all bad. Digital media and electronic gadgets can be powerful tools for your child’s learning and development. The time we spend indoors is a good time to revisit your child’s relationship with gadgets and screens! Let’s take a look at what works during this extraordinary time, what you need to be careful of, and how you can manage your child’s screen time after this period ends.
Managing Screen Time For Kids During Circuit Breaker Period
Enrichment, Exercise and Entertainment
Now that time spent outdoors is limited or to some extent, non-existent, your child may be feeling bored and may not know what else to do. Don’t forget that their world has changed profoundly and very much suddenly.
Apart from schools switching to home-based learning, you can choose from a multitude of applications that allow your child to learn, play and exercise. You can even use technology to support your child’s interests and hobbies — try picking up a musical instrument!
If you enjoy theatre and performances, many famous child-friendly productions are also being streamed online for free, from student theatre companies. Watch productions of Alice in Wonderland, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Another classic, Annie, is also available to stream on Netflix.
To stretch your children further, encourage them to create or build things online instead of just passively viewing content. Options include learning the basics of coding, trying out digital art projects or even entering the world of Adobe Photoshop!
Some studies have proven that playing games and watching shows (in moderation) have been helpful in reducing a child’s anxiety during high-stress situations1. These activities can also promote the development of soft skills like creativity, and help to mitigate the effects of this uncertain period. It will also ease your burden of constantly finding ways to engage your child.
Human beings are very much social creatures and need to interact with others. Your child will definitely miss meeting their grandparents, cousins and friends. Use technology to allow them to have virtual meetings, play dates or even birthday parties! Remind them that it is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, but rather, an example of how we adapt to situations.
Do remember to adjust your privacy settings to avoid hackers making unwanted appearances. It’s a perfect opportunity for a teachable moment and you can explain to your child some of the dangers lurking on the internet.
Too much screen time may lead to addiction, behavioural issues such as tantrums, poorer sleep and memory, irritability when separated from devices, loss of focus and even anti-social behaviour2. As always, moderation is key. Explain to your child why you are increasing their screen time during this period and lay the ground rules clearly. Set time limits for each task or activity and ensure that they take a break from the screen every 45 minutes or so. Don’t forget to set a limit on the maximum cumulative time spent on screens per day.
Children feel safe with routines so set a routine for when, where and how much they use devices. It’s best to keep devices away from the dining and sleeping areas. As the parent, you should role model the same behaviour.
It might take some time for them to get used to the new routine but as long as your expectations are clear and constantly reinforced, they will get the hang of it.
The best way to monitor your child’s virtual world is by being a part of it. Participate in some activities with your child and be in the know of what they are doing online. Especially with older kids, do your research and know more about the apps that are popular with their age group. If possible, you can even follow them on Instagram or be a part of their Facebook to have an idea of what they post and who their online friends are. Don’t feel bad, it’s not that you are invading your child’s privacy or playing detective, you are just looking out for their safety.
Take the necessary precautions to safeguard your child. Set strong passwords and activate safe search settings on all devices, browsers and applications3. Restrictions and parental controls can be customised according to your family’s needs, so do explore your options.
In fact, try out the things your child will be doing online before they get to it so that you can troubleshoot and look out for anything that they might accidentally come across.
It’s advisable to keep the devices in a common space where you can keep a watchful eye on your child’s usage. Reinforce online safety habits and highlight the potential threats that lurk on the Internet. Using real examples where possible, teach your child not to click on links or attachments sent by strangers or pop-up boxes.
By knowing what apps your child uses and having shared experiences with them, it will be easier to find teachable moments as well as have your children confide in you when they come across difficulties or problems online.
Managing Screen Time For Kids After Circuit Breaker Period
As we know, even after the circuit breaker is lifted, many of our habits and practices are bound to change. Safe distancing is likely to be around for a long time, so cultivate positive screen time habits that empower your children throughout their lives.
Keep What Worked
If something worked well during the circuit breaker period, keep it going even after this period ends. For example, if your child is in the midst of learning a new skill online, which he previously didn’t get a chance to, why stop?
They may also have discovered some online learning methods that may be good to keep. Some applications and educational games go a long way in complementing what your child learns in books and the classroom.
Safety First, Always
Don’t let your guard down when schools and classes resume and your child is seemingly spending less time online. Whatever restrictions, boundaries and safety measures you implemented during the circuit breaker period should become a way of life and continue to apply.
Virtual to Real
The best way to show your child how the online and real-world are intertwined is to make them apply the things that they learnt online, in real life. There are bound to be many opportunities for them to do so. For example, if they have picked up a new skill online, they can demonstrate it to their friends when school reopens, or they could do a presentation on some things they learnt during the period of home-based learning.
Lastly, when the circuit breaker ends, your child will have to get used to pre-circuit breaker timings and routines once again and it might take some adjustment. It is extremely disconcerting for a child’s routine to keep changing so be patient and ease their transition as and when necessary.
So parents, while increased screen time has its drawbacks, whether it turns out to be a boon or a bane really depends on how you manage your child’s use of it. If you take the right approach and the necessary precautions, you will truly be able to harness the power of technology to your child’s advantage.
Remember, we are after all preparing our children for a world that is different from the one we know!