Give your family screen time breaks this winter

December 04, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

If you and your family have been glued to your screens lately, you are not alone.

Since the start of the pandemic, most of us have been spending more time in front of screens — whether we are watching our favorite television show, catching up with friends on Zoom, working from home or attending virtual classes from home. Our children are in the same boat.

A number of surveys, polls and studies have found we are spending more time in front of a screen. For example, children’s channels such as Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon  have reported seeing “viewing increases by as much as 60 percent in one week,” according to an article in the New York Times.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long supported limiting the amount of time children spend using electronic devices, watching television or playing video games. In light of the pandemic, the AAP recognized children would be spending more time online or in front of a screen.

And though the AAP did not offer any new guidance on how much time children should spend in front of a screen given the new realities they face with remote learning and connecting with friends virtually, the organization did urge parents to “preserve offline experiences.”

Some tips to consider as the pandemic continues and we enter the winter months:

  • Set a plan. Talk to your children about how much time they spend online and try to craft a plan that provides breaks from screen time. Consider setting screen-free hours and device-free zones in the home (e.g., no cell phones at the dinner table).

  • Get outside. Yes, it’s a bit colder, but fresh air and sunshine can help boost your mood. Consider taking a nature hike with your children, playing an outdoor game or just taking a short walk in your neighborhood. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather.

  • Schedule fun indoor activities. Bring out the board games and have a family game night. Pick a book to read together as a family. Schedule time to exercise together at home.

  • Make the best use of screen time. For example, if your child enjoys watching cooking shows, watch a few together and plan a family cooking night based on what you saw. Use screen time to connect with friends or family through video calls.

  • Have fun! Take advantage of fun, socially distanced outdoor holiday activities. Pack some snacks and hot cocoa and enjoy a drive through a holiday light display.

  • Keep healthy habits. Don’t let screen time get in the way of healthy habits. Set aside at least 30 minutes each day for exercise and consider turning off all devices 30 minutes or so before bedtime.

  • Step away and talk.  Encourage your children to take breaks once their virtual school day has ended. Engage with them and talk about their day and what they’ve done in class.

Learn more about children's services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

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