With everyone sheltering in place due to COVID-19, there has been a tremendous increase in screen time use: school is online, parents are working from home, we are connecting with family and friends via video chat and recreational activities are also on our digital devices. A recent NY Times article hits the nail on the head with its title: “Coronavirus Ended the Screen Time Debate: Screens Won.” Unfortunately, this is the current reality we’re living through. Axios reports there has been an increase of almost 70% in digital traffic to kids apps and digital services in just the past month (March 9 - March 29) and Dylan Collins, CEO of SuperAwesome.com, estimates kids will be spending approximately 2.5-3x more time in front of a device than they normally would be.
We know that our devices, including television, tablets, phones and video games, have their benefits, but excessive and consistent use is where the problem arises. Screen time has been linked to obesity, a decrease in social skills, behavioral problems and an interruption in children’s sleep.
So, we know the problem; what is the solution? Here are a few tips and tricks to help families manage this rise in screen time use.
1. Understanding Screen Time Guidelines & Creating a Family Media Plan
The American Pediatric Association has put out the following recommendations for children;
- For babies 0 to 18 months old: Avoid use of screen time other than video chatting.
- For toddlers 18 to 24 months old: Parents who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and co-view with their children to help them understand what they’re watching.
- For kids 2 to 5 years old: Limit digital screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming.
- Finally, for kids 6 years and older: Place consistent limits on the time spent using media, the types of media, and make sure it does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
The first step in limiting screen time use is understanding how much your family is actually on their devices (no one will judge your real number) and then decide how and where to cut down.
Check out the APA Family Media Plan tool here.
2. Visual Hygiene: Practice the 20-20-20 Rule
Recommended by the American Optometric Association.
The 20-20-20 rule was designed to limit eye strain and computer vision syndrome. This rule encourages visual breaks after 20 minutes of device use, by looking at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Practicing this rule gives the visual system a good break and a chance to reset.
3. Practicing Good Eye Health and Proper Habits with GUNNAR Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Through digital devices, children as young as Pre-K are video conferencing with their classmates. Understanding the effects digital blue light has on children’s eyes is important. GUNNAR’s Cruz blue light blocking glasses are specifically designed to protect the younger population’s developing eyes by reducing glare and dryness, while absorbing high energy blue light that is known to affect sleep cycles.
With the proper eye protection and managing excessive screen time, you can avoid serious eye damage that has led to nearsightedness, eye fatigue and potentially macular degeneration.
Everyone is just trying to overcome this unprecedented time; just remember to do what feels right for your family!