Limiting Screen Time in the Age of COVID-19

Living in the age of COVID-19 has produced a wide array of challenges that we couldn’t have dreamed of one year ago. In addition to the health and economic crises COVID-19 has produced, it’s also sent millions of kids home from school. Learning through Zoom or other online platforms has become the norm. 

Prior to COVID-19, parents were telling their kids to get off their screens. Now they’re telling their kids they have to sit in front of them for hours. At the same time, many parents are now working remotely and have to sit in front of their own devices for hours. No interactions with coworkers or coffee breaks to stretch your legs — just a lot of screen time.

How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology (AACAP), American children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend 4-6 hours a day in front of a screen, and teens spend up to 9 hours. And those stats were last updated in February 2020, before the pandemic struck! The Academy recommends limiting screen time at all ages, encouraging healthy physical activity, and turning off screens 30-60 minutes before going to bed. 

As for adults, a 2019 Time article postulates that asking “How much screen time is healthy?” is the wrong question. The author says that screen time shouldn’t be judged quantitatively, but qualitatively. In other words, you should be asking, “What value are you getting out of the time you spend looking at screens, and what value are you losing?” If you use screen time productively, you’re okay. If you see that your screen time is coming at the expense of other valuable activities, such as work tasks or spending time with children, then it’s time to reassess your balance. 

Limiting Kids’ Screen Time

Regardless of today’s educational requirements, most health experts agree that it’s not good for kids to have too much screen time. Now that remote learning is more prevalent than ever, how can we help our kids strike a balance between health, education, and of course, downtime? 

The question of value that adults pose to themselves can also be applied to kids. Educational screen time has inherent value, but if it starts to come at the expense of your child’s mental or emotional wellbeing, you as a parent have the right to say, today we’re playing hooky. You can also pick and choose the most important classes that you’d like your child to attend, and find non-screen ways to make up the material from the other classes. (Studying with a friend, reading pages in the textbook, doing homework, etc.)

After all the classes and homework are finished, your child will likely want time to watch television, play video games, or scroll through their phone. They need this downtime. As the parent, though, you can set limits so it doesn’t come at the expense of other values: physical activity, social interaction, family time. Designating specific hours of “screen-free time” is one way to do that. Finding fun, engaging replacements without saying “screen-free time” is another. (Sometimes, when you harp on something too much, it becomes a bigger issue.)

Setting Your Own Limits

In some ways, it’s easier to set limits for your children than for yourself! When your children are young, they can be easily distracted by fun activities or influenced by your convincing argument that too much screen time isn’t healthy. But as an adult who’s juggling work, kids, family, financial stress, and much more, you probably want to zone out with Netflix or Twitter for hours once your kids have gone to sleep. 

Certainly, you need downtime too. It has value. And your work screen time is valuable as well  — it’s what helps you pay the bills. But when you see that your screen time comes at the expense of sleep, preparing healthy meals, or social interactions, that’s when you need to be firm with yourself and say, no more. Much easier said than done, but looking at screen time from a values-perspective can help increase motivation.

Finding Balance

As with most things in life, screen time is about finding the right balance. There may be some days where you and your kids only have minimal screen time and spend the rest of your day engaged in physical activities. There may be other days when you all spend 15 hours in front of the screen. As you strive for balance, remember that there will be ups and downs. Also remember that the COVID-19 situation isn’t permanent. It may not disappear overnight, but it’s not forever either. 

Another thing to keep in mind as you strive for balance is that the goal of this seemingly impossible endeavor is to be healthy. Screen time affects so much more than just your eyes — it affects sleep, weight, relationships, mood, and more. So if you can strike the right balance, you’re doing yourself and your family a favor. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also get you lower rates on life insurance, which is nothing to laugh about in today’s poignant uncertainty. 

Sproutt insurance advisors are available to help you determine what kind of life insurance is best for you. Simply answer a few questions and we will find the best-value plan for your lifestyle, needs and budget.

 

 

 

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