As the world assimilates to the new normal – work-from-home mandates, school closures and quarantines – parents worldwide are confronted with the reality of spending 24 hours a day with their new co-worker and the accompanying question — How do I occupy my child’s time? — and how do I manage my child’s excessive screen time during COVID-19.
A sizeable increase in screen time
This transition spells a significant change in many parents’ lives. Not only do they have to balance work and their household chores, they have to take care of their kids and worry about how to occupy them on top of it all. And for many parents, grappling with this sudden change can be all too overwhelming.
As such, it comes as no surprise that many are turning to mobile devices for their wealth of entertaining and educational resources as a quick fix to occupy their little ones’ time. Parents themselves may find that they are spending more time behind the screen for work and leisure purposes.
In fact, a preliminary analysis from the Plano Time Machine cohort found that the average daily screen time of Singaporean adults has increased from 6.6 hours before the pandemic to 7.8 hours in only a few weeks during this period!
The collateral damage
While staying safe and protecting ourselves and our little ones in these trying times should be our primary concern, the current circumstances necessitate the consideration of the adverse secondary effects of the pandemic.
More time at home means a larger proportion of your day cooped up at home with your screens for company, more near-work (on mobile devices) and much less time spent on outdoor activities.
This can put you and your child through a world of hurt in the long run. Consequences of too much screen time include digital eye strain, musculoskeletal problems like neck, shoulder and hand pain, and myopia (nearsightedness). As we spend more time on our devices, the risk of experiencing these adverse effects increases.
What can we do to shield ourselves from these health risks?
Under the current circumstances, all these health impacts on top of the pandemic can seem rather disconcerting. However, there are many actionable measures you can put into practice right now to manage your child’s excessive screen time during COVID-19.
1. Regular breaks from the screen and adequate face-to-screen distance is key
Ensure adequate face-to-screen distance when you or your child uses devices such as at least 60 centimetres of distance between the face and computer screens and 30 centimetres of distance when using smart devices like phones or tablets. Take regular breaks between periods of screen exposure i.e. take at least a 15-minute break after 2 hours of device use. The plano application’s face-to-screen distance tracker and eye break prompts can help you with this by keeping an eye on your child’s device use behaviour.
2. At-home alternatives to outdoor activities and screen time
Your home may feel void of fun activities to do with your little ones and as such, it is natural to feel at a loss these days when it comes to occupying their time. Creating a routine for your child is a useful way to ensure that their time is used productively and with purpose. This routine should include blocks of screen-free play time. If independent play is a struggle for your little one, set aside some time to engage in play with him/her. This can include storytelling, having a workout session together and even doing household chores together!
Whatever you choose to do with your child, remember to use these moments as golden opportunities to spend some quality bonding time with your loved ones. Now is the chance to get creative with your child, get to know one another, unleash your inner child and have a whole lot of fun while you’re at it.
At the end of the day, we all want the best for our children. And while Netflix Nanny is a tempting alternative especially considering our professional obligations and domestic duties, let’s not forget to make the most of every precious moment with our little ones during these uncertain times.