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APU Editor's Pick Online Learning Original

Should Screen Time Be Limited for Kids during the Pandemic?

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By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics

Do children have too much screen time? It’s a debatable topic. The current coronavirus pandemic has accelerated an ongoing trend for kids to toggle effortlessly between the real and virtual worlds.

As a result, screen time has increased 500% in the past months and for a good reason. The pandemic forced the majority of public educational institutions to revamp the in-person learning environment to a 100% virtual environment. As a result, it is common for distance learning students to spend six to eight hours a day with an electronic device.

For Children, Screen Time Doesn’t Stop after Class Is Over

When class time is done, the screen time does not stop for children. If you add homework and playtime, the amount of screen time can rise to as high as 12 hours a day.

Screen time provides a natural high for the inquisitive mind, releasing endorphins and dopamine. As a result, it is easy for children to get lost in the virtual world for hours.

The Downside of Too Much Screen Time

According to Karla Baskin, a lack of childcare and an increase in stress and anxiety has pushed digital devices to serve as an electronic babysitter or a respite from daily challenges. According to Michigan Health, some of the negative consequences of too much screen time include a lack of internet safety, depression, overeating, decreased eyesight and decreased physical activity. 

The Effective Use of Screen Time

However, screen time can be used in effective ways:

  1. Connecting with friends and family — Virtual connection platforms, such as Google Meet, Zoom and FaceTime have reported exponential increases in recreational use since the pandemic.
  2. Real-time information gathering — The virtual classroom has been enhanced by a student’s ability to search for information in real time.
  3. Developing new skills — Gaming, while not considered an optimal youth activity, teaches hand-eye coordination, critical thinking and strategic execution.
  4. Developing empathy — The internet provides a portal to see how others are coping with life’s challenges. More empathetic children have higher rates of being engaged in learning, are more active listeners and better understand others’ points of view.

Set Boundaries for Your Children

So while screen time is increasing for children, it’s important for parents to set reasonable boundaries so that using an electronic device isn’t the only activity of the day. Incorporating outdoor activities, reading books, making arts and crafts, and performing household chores are ways to divide the day into manageable chunks that don’t involve an electronic device.

Parental controls can include setting time limits, prohibiting the use of electronic devices during meals and turning off the internet at bedtime. There are internet service providers that literally allow you to cut off internet access, which can instantly convert a home into a no-device zone.

Embrace Screen Time and Turn It into a Positive Experience

According to FirstPost, 2020 has been a year of an unprecedented use of electronic devices. FirstPost notes, “Whether it was for leisure watching, shopping, work, bookings, working out, news consumption — you name it, and it could be done on a device. In 2020, though, we only had our screens for company. With the inability to step out, or interact socially, our screens became our refuge.”

So the key to using screen time wisely is to embrace it and turn using electronic devices into a positive experience. By incorporating boundaries, scheduled screen time can become a welcomed addition to the daily routine for children.

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has over 25 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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