I’m a parent, and I’ve been a parent to young kids during a pandemic, so listen – if the headline of this article or the subject of this study immediately raises your hackles, I get it. We’ve all done what we had to do in order to get through it.
Now that we’re starting to come out the other side, though, I can’t be the only parent who is taking stock of how much backpedaling there is to do in the area of screen time – which is exactly what this study is pointing out.
The study is out of the University of Calgary and found that, even before Covid, children under the age of five were getting quite a bit more screen time than is recommended.
The researchers analyzed records of 89,163 kids and found that only 1 in 4 kids under 2, and 1 in 3 kids under 5, were meeting the recommended guidelines.
Those guidelines are from the World Health Organization, who recommends no screens for kids under 2 and less than 1 hour a day between the ages of two and five.
Study co-author Brae Anne McArthur, a psychologist at the University of Calgary, explains the outcomes.
“These findings are concerning because we know that when children are watching screens for long durations, they have less time to engage in other activities (e.g., engaging with caregivers and siblings, physical activity, sleep) that are crucial for healthy development in young children.”
No one would argue that screens aren’t a useful parenting tool these days, and one that should be strategically employed when needed – if you’re stressed, if you have things to do, if your kids are disturbing other patrons in a restaurant or somewhere else in public – but if you’re concerned you might be using them too much, McArthur says there are a few steps you can take to help moderate.
“Designing a family media plan outlining when and how media will be used by a family can be a helpful first step in creating manageable device habits. Like other health behaviors, it is helpful if routines remain consistent throughout the week and are incorporated into each individual family’s lifestyle and routine. Pick a time that works for your family, set a timer, and enjoy.”
I can personally vouch for making the timer the bad guy – it works like a charm and Alexa has never complained.
Also, she says you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking the time spent on every device in your home, not just one.
“Often adding up device use throughout the day can surprise parents. This can give families a good idea of where they are starting and can act as a baseline as they work toward reaching the goal of one hour per day.”
Moderation is key, as it is with everything in life, so make sure that you’re engaging your kids in physical activity as well as one-on-one time with family when they’re not watching screens.
You know your child and family best, but I think we all know screens have a time and place that isn’t all the time – so just do your best and keep those WHO rules in mind while you do.