How can parents cope with increased screentime during the COVID-19 outbreak? Screentime can be a challenge considering we use our devices for entertainment, e-learning, and work, noted Joanne Orlando of The Conversation, a news and analysis website. The outbreak blurs the line between using screentime for entertainment and using it for educational purposes, but there are ways for parents to take advantage of their kid’s increased screentime.
UNICEF’S “Growing Up In A Connected World” Report
UNICEF, a United Nations agency dedicated to helping children worldwide, provided a summary of data generated from Global Kids Online national surveys in 11 countries. 93% of Brazilian children use phones to access the internet at least every week (versus 22% of those who use desktop computers). 87% of children in Chile use phones (versus 42%) and 88% of kids in Argentina also use phones to surf the internet (versus 60%). In Uruguay, 69% use phones while 24% use desktop computers.
90% of kids in Italy use phones, but data about desktop computer usage was unavailable. Italy was followed by Albania, with 89% using phones to access the internet (versus 37% of children who use computers), South Africa (88% versus 30%), Montenegro and Bulgaria (83% versus 48%), Ghana (64% versus 14%), and the Philippines (45% versus 30%).
85% of boys and 82% of girls from Montenegro play online games at least every week, followed by Bulgaria (84% versus 62%), Brazil (82% versus 55%), Chile (73% versus 55%), Albania (66% versus 51%), and Italy (64% versus 28%).
61% of boys and 36% of girls in Uruguay play online games while only 58% of boys and 46% of girls in South Africa do so every week. 58% of boys and 28% of girls in the Philippines play online games compared with Ghana’s 35% of boys and 26% of girls that game online. 77% of children in the Philippines said they may be unable to verify the truth of online information, followed by Albania (64%), Ghana (62%), South Africa (55%), Italy (53%), Bulgaria (48%), Chile (41%), Uruguay (38%), Brazil (36%), and Montenegro (23%).
51% of kids in South Africa were exposed to sexual content, 34% were exposed to hate speech, 33% reported seeing violent content, and 18% reported being exposed to self-harm content or suicide content. In Uruguay, 40% were exposed to violent content, followed by sexual content (36%), hate speech (35%), and self-harm content (22%), and suicide content (16%). 35% of kids in Italy reported being exposed to hate speech, along with violent content (33%), sexual content (27%), self-harm content (22%), and suicide content (13%).
5 Tips to Help Parents Deal With Increased Screentime
1. Focus On Screentime Quality
The benefits of technology on your child’s health, well-being, social and emotional outcomes, and academic success depend not on the time, but on the type of content your little one engages with. Imagine a five-year-old watching early childhood content for 30 minutes and the same child playing violent games for half an hour.
Both involve 30 minutes of screentime, but the experience and impact of the content will be different. Quality screentime is defined by three parameters: interactive, age-appropriate, and educational. If you want your child to play educational games, the games have to make them think. Educational games should also be creative and socially interactive. One example is Thinkrolls Space. The game has fun and alien-themed puzzles that encourage your child to exercise their problem-solving skills and strategic and logical thinking.
2. Have Screen Buddies
It’s unhealthy for your child to be alone on a device for several hours. Hence, it is recommended to engage and vary how your child interacts socially when using a device to help develop healthy screen habits.
When possible, you can sit down with your child and ask questions to prompt them to think about what they are watching on their device, suggested Brae Anne McArthur and Sheri Madigan of The Conversation. You can ask these questions: “What happened to character X today?”, “Character X is sad, why do you think that is?” You can also describe or label what you are seeing on the screen.
Meanwhile, “co-engaging” is a more powerful idea for older kids. This term involves using a screen with someone equally engaged. An example includes playing an online game with a parent or another individual. “Co-engaging” can also mean engaging with online content with someone virtually. For example, your child can video chat or call their friend in class over Skype or participate in a virtual study group. You can also encourage your child to contact a loved one or a neighbor in your community.
3. Strike A Balance Between Screentime and Other Activities
Include ample serve-and-return interactions that build your child’s brain and body. After all, kids learn best when they engage in interactions and conversations with their family. Moreover, it might be a wonderful idea to create a schedule for screentime and “real world” activities such as sleep, reading, healthy-eating, and more. This can help your child maintain good mental and physical health.
4. Ensure Structure In Your Day-to-Day Life
It is normal to be stressed out due to sudden changes in routine, explained Corinn Cross, MD, FAAP, of Healthychildren.org, a parenting website backed by 67,000 pediatricians who are committed to the health of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
You can talk to your child about why they need to stay at home as well as about changes in routine. Let them help you create a schedule that can be placed somewhere they can see each day. As a parent, don’t forget to include breaks from work or academics.
5. Model Healthy Screentime Habits
Seeing yourself get sucked by technology? It is important to track your own media consumption as it can impact your child’s use of technology and disrupt serve-and-return interactions. You can model healthy screentime habits by taking media breaks and engaging in offline activities like reading and cooking. As for COVID-19-related news, it’s okay to talk about it with your child but be prepared to answer questions or correct misinformation about the pandemic.
Screentime can be difficult to navigate as more families stay indoors during the outbreak. Hence, it is important to provide quality screentime like educational games and to engage in offline activities that will strengthen the bond between parents and children.