Five Keys to Avoid a Screen Crisis During Quarantine
By Melanie Hempe, BSN, Founder of ScreenStrong
Are you looking for tips for regulating screen time during the quarantine? We need guidance during times like this when our routines are disrupted and we find ourselves with hours of downtime. The following are practical solutions for maintaining screen limits and keeping your family sane. Don’t let one crisis lead to another!
Sharpen your current screen rules.
Don’t let your guard down. Every day is not the weekend, especially in a health crisis. You are not on vacation. You set rules based on research, logic, and common sense—and those reasons haven’t changed. Stick to them; don’t go backwards.
- Keep the learning screens but eliminate video games and social media. Since our students will be navigating plenty of screen use due to homework and online learning, they will be getting much more than two hours a day, more than medical experts recommend. Pack up those video games and unplug the smartphones,but allow plenty of voice calls to connect with friends.
- Choose TV shows over interactive games and social media. All screens are not created equal. If you are at the end of your rope, it is better to pick a few educational shows on TV rather than more addictive technologies (screen games and phones). Stay away from unsupervised YouTube as it is an endless loop with no natural stopping point.
Make a daily schedule.
Unscheduled time has the potential to get wasted on mindless screens distractions, especially since kids gravitate toward low-effort/high-reward screen activities. Avoid that pitfall by setting a daily schedule and adhering to it.
- Schedule Exercise. Physical activity is crucial when we are indoors. Hours can go by before we realize our kids have not moved a muscle. Take a family after-dinner walk. Get some jump ropes, make a chart for calisthenics, or map out a running plan. Create some healthy contests, kids love the competition. Pack a picnic lunch for the backyard, go on a bike ride, or go on a scavenger hunt. Check our list of things to do outside.
- Schedule reading time. Start a family reading challenge and set goals or prizes for the number of pages or books read. Audiobooks are perfect to listen to while working on a puzzle or other creative activity. Contact friends for a book swap. Make sure your child has age-appropriate books in his room and a book light so he can read at night before bed. Remember no screens at least an hour before bed. Make reading aloud together a nightly ritual again; even older teens can take part in this.
- Schedule a variety of purposeful activities. Be creative with boredom. More downtime doesn’t mean that you add more screen time to your child’s day. From elementary to high school, all kids need to have purposeful activities scheduled in their day. Parents must help with structure and ideas.
Focus on building skills.
It is usually hard to slow down enough to learn a new hobby or skill so take advantage of the extra white space in your schedule now.
- Life skills. This is the perfect opportunity to engage your kids in routine chores they don’t normally do like cooking, doing laundry and cleaning. Yes, put them in charge of all the laundry! Also get them helping with house projects like doing yard work, reorganizing their bedroom, or even painting a room. Pulling weeds can be fun and will also get them outside. See our life skills list for more ideas.
- New hobbies. Supervise YouTube to learn how to knit, solve a Rubik’s Cube, play piano or chess, or pursue any other interest. But make sure it is used just for that! Gather art supplies and keep them out in plain view. Have your kids write in a journal instead of posting on social media. When you replace screens with creative activities, your kids will surprise you.
- Work skills. Do your kids know how to type? Most don’t. They just swipe really well. How about learning to build a spreadsheet? Can they help you with a work project? Practice then turn the screen off.
Do not leave your kids or teens alone on their screens.
Screens are not good babysitters, even if widely used that way. If you are working and can’t pay attention to what your children are doing, a screen is the last place they need to be.
- Check and reset parental controls on each screen device in your home including TVs, tablets, and phones. But remember no parental control is 100 percent effective. Pornhub, which is offering free accounts in countries hardest hit by the virus, reports that afternoon traffic has doubled. There’s also an uptick in child predators using the COVID-19 crisis to groom children for online abuse. With such threats at hand, average parents cannot possibly provide 24/7 guidance for every child and lock down every screen in their home—especially when we are distracted on our own work screens.
- Reduce the number of screens that are available. Remember, larger screens are better than smaller private screens as far as monitoring what your kids are doing. Pack up those smartphones and tablets and move all entertainment screen time to one big TV or your family laptop.
- Never allow screen privacy. Take all screens out of the bedrooms, bathrooms, and other private areas. Put a plug-in alarm clock in bedrooms.
Create fond memories!
We will look back on this time for the rest of our lives, so let’s make some positive memories despite the challenging circumstances.
- Initiate conversations. Eat meals together. Talk, tell stories, watch home movies together, and look through photos and family scrapbooks. Use screens to video chat with extended family but then put those laptops away. Hide the remote controls to your TV so your kids don’t reach for them constantly to fill every spare moment. Put crossword puzzles out and set up a card table to set up a puzzle.
- Keep music on. A home filled with good music is relaxing and has a way of bringing people together. Music has a way of filling the need for background screen noise and can easily replace screen entertainment. Have fun with dancing and karaoke.
- Play together. Grab the popcorn and watch a family movie or insightful documentary (such as Screened Out, which is releasing soon). Play a board game or quick card game together every day.
Click here for answers to quarantine questions like “Can my daughter live without social media for a month?” and “How do I win the Fortnite war in my home?”
Wondering if your child is at-risk for screen addiction or you want more scientific facts about kids’ brains and screens? Visit ScreenStrong.com.
Melanie Hempe, BSN, is the founder and executive director of ScreenStrong, a national nonprofit organization that offers a countercultural approach to eliminate childhood screen dependency, but one that just might save your kids. Melanie has developed cutting-edge programs that empower parents to pause video games and social media for kids and teens through late adolescence. Her three books can be found on Amazon: Will Your Gamer Survive College?, Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone? and The ScreenStrong Solution: How to free your child from addictive screen habits.
ScreenStrong is committed to rescuing this screen-driven generation, one family at a time.
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