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How to Handle Screen Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The kids (and you) will be alright

Both adults and children are experiencing an increase in screen time, but experts are saying it’s going to be ok. In fact, there’s actually very little evidence directly connecting screen time to harm in kids. The bigger problem lies in screens replacing positive activities like exercise, socializing, and sleep. Here are three simple things to keep in mind.

One media-free meal per day. Try to have at least one meal per day without screens. Screen time, and even background television during meals, have been linked to eating junk food and increased weight in children, as food ads for low-nutrition options can influence what preschoolers want to eat. Conversations during mealtime can help to shape a child’s social-emotional health and ease stress for the whole family.

Two screen-free hours before bed. Setting screens aside for two hours before bedtime makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up on time. The “blue light” from TVs and other screens disrupt the natural sleep cycle. For younger children, it also helps to save the screens for after naptime. For older kids, device alerts can be an issue as well. Try using a real alarm clock and keeping their phone out of the bedroom.

Three ways to measure screen use. The amount of time spent using a screen is just one of three ways to measure the health of technology use. The quality of the content and being there to help your child process what’s on screen are two important factors that can help create meaningful interactions.

For more on the strategies above and specific guidelines on screen time for children of all ages, check out this Family Digital Wellness Guide from the Center on Media and Child Health.