It may take a decade or more to calculate all the lifestyle changes we’ve had to adjust since the pandemic and there will definitely be long term mental health effects to manage. Here’s one that may slip through the cracks: Your kids are now spending even more time in front of a screen of some sort. Just when we may have thought the screen-time issue couldn’t get worse, well…welcome to our life online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So now it’s not just a matter of setting and enforcing strict boundaries. We know parental burnout right now is real, but the playing field has been tilted. This dynamic means parents and caregivers must develop flexibility, creativity, and patience when addressing the problem.
Screen Time: Too Much Can Be Bad News
The epidemic of increased screen time has many causes, but they may all fall under two broad reasons. First, so many everyday activities are not allowed, and thus, the screen becomes a boredom deflector.
Also, there have been so many school changes throughout 2020, and remote schooling — by definition — is all about screen time. So, why is this a problem?
- The Boredom Paradox: Ironically, boredom serves a purpose — particularly in childhood. Kids develop self-reliance and creativity during those times when they have to entertain themselves. Screen time can stunt this growth.
- Unnatural Environment: Following up on the boredom paradox, screen time can also discourage children from developing problem-solving, language, and social skills. Kids learn SO much from face-to-face interaction with their peers.
- Attention Span: There’s a reason why this is such a cliché: it’s true. The nature of screen-based entertainment is that it requires minimal cognitive effort on your kid’s part.
6 Healthy Strategies to Help Your Kid Navigate the Recent Rise in Screen Time
1. Offer Alternatives
Board games, real books, arts and crafts, do whatever it takes — but make sure they have options that don’t involve a screen.
2. Play WITH Them
You are undoubtedly busy, but surely you can set aside a few 10-minute periods per day to engage with your children. Invent games together and make them happen every day.
3. Allow Boredom to Happen
As touched on above, your kids will benefit from having to fend for themselves. They may pout at first, and you may need to help them manage some big feelings along the way, but soon enough, they’ll entertain themselves.
4. Encourage Hobbies and Interests
Families can do many things together, e.g., cooking, gardening, or playing a group game (like Charades). You may even work together as a team to re-organize your home — only make sure you let the kids make some decisions, too.
5. Create Digital-Free Times for the Entire Family
This idea dovetails with #3 above — two good starting points: meals and the hour before bedtime. It may be a study routine or something that rotates daily.
6. Work Up a Sweat
Depending on weather and location, you can find ways to get you and your kids moving. It might be indoor exercise equipment. If possible, it may be extended family bike rides. This option serves the dual purposes of getting ALL of you away from a screen and giving everyone some much-needed physical activity.
Like Everything Else in 2020 During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Please Ask For Help
When navigating uncharted territory, you usually reach out for assistance. You and your family are doing your best, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure if it’s time for family counseling, it could be time to seek some professional guidance.
Any format of counseling (in person or online therapy) will go a long way in helping you develop the skills you need to endure a global pandemic.
You don’t have to throw up your hands and give up. You don’t have to feel like you’re constantly yelling at your kids. Instead, work through these issues to strike as good a balance as you can. The goal is never perfection. But there’s no reason to not aim for success.
Family Counseling Columbus
Family counseling may sound like a straightforward solution if this is the decision you come to, but you’ll need support from a professional who understands these dynamics. Blue Boat Counseling is a Columbus counseling practice with teen and family therapists who can offer you that support, so please contact us today. We’re here to provide the help your family needs.