Screen Time and Kids Development amid Covid-19 Pandemic

by Oluwatoni Peters

As parents, we are always concerned about how much time our kids should spend staring at their smartphones, mobile devices and screens in general.

We are never certain if screen time can be enough for kids, or if we can go beyond what is permissible and won’t negatively impact the healthy development of our kids.

When we don’t know what constitutes acceptable screen time, or how to set normal and healthy screen time limits, how do we then set the boundaries of how much time our kids can spend in front of their smartphones, mobile devices, or even in front of the traditional TV screen?

Where we don’t know what to do, panic and fear sets in – we come off thinking our kids grey matter will be negatively impacted, or that the unbridled time spent before smartphones can lay the foundation for the coming years of decadence and the faulty development kids are experiencing today and how that would prevent them in future from growing into successful adults.

To many parents, unbridled screen time can be behind what’s fueling most kids noncommittal and nonchalant attitude, or outright failure later in life.

In our hasty response to prevent the inevitable, parents cut off screen time on their kids smartphones and other mobile devices and outrightly reduce time spent before the traditional TV screen.

The current pandemic situation has increased the panic level of parents concerning screen time, especially where children in the lower class grades are involved. Older children generally get more access to screen time compared to younger children whose screen time gets more regulated.

Then, came the pandemic. It changed everything we knew about screen time as schools were forced to shut down and learning had to be delivered on computers, laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices.

The average kid today has spent more time poring over screens during and after the Covid-19 pandemic than she has ever done before the pandemic. Kids have logged more time staring at their devices today than when compared to what has been statistically recorded before this period in history.

Some important questions are worth considering here:

Is our panic over screen time justified based on Science?

How can kids develop socially without screen time during this period of social distancing?

Can screen time have a positive influence on the mental development of kids?

These are some of the questions parents want answers to.

Given the situation we have found ourselves today, we need to rethink screen time for kids and explore if there are benefits to kids having sufficient screen time and explore the positive effects of screen time on kids overall development and learning experiences.

Screen time contributes to the social and mental development of kids if indeed those times are spent in active learning and away from the usual distractions kids face online.

Above all, it is expected that parents would effectively manage their kids screen time at the early stages of their lives so as to forestall attention-deficit problems that have been associated with excessive screen time usage in children.

Children develop socially through interactions. These interactions help define their social habits and relationships with others. With remote and distance learning, children don’t get the minimum interaction they should get with their peers. Screen time can make for that loss of physical interaction. Screen time thus becomes a healthy way of reminding our kids that we are social creatures and even when social interactions are done remotely, we can still connect with each other, engage in daily activities and express ourselves.

We find the following additional ideas compelling reasons to encourage more screen time during this cataclysmic moment we have found ourselves in human history:

Encouraging healthy screen time will help parents explains to kids better the impact of COVID-19 and its consequences on our pre-and-post-pandemic living conditions – the contentious issues around vaccination, the scientific researches for a cure and the many issues surrounding dealing with the virus. This type of learning should be actively encouraged by parents and teachers alike.

With the pandemic, kids and families have also struggled with a lot of issues. Traditional TV programming is different from what it used to be after the pandemic. Programs emphasizing social and emotional learning and mental health management should be introduced to kids.

These are also the periods to encourage interaction online through Esports, computer and video gaming. Through Esports, computer and video games, kids can have more access to digital tools to deepen social interaction with their peers, encourage healthy brain stimulation and the development of problem solving skills.

Through real time multiplayer games, live task and interactive group sessions can be encouraged on digital screens across many difficulty levels and multiple players. These activities contribute to building social traits such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, assertiveness, communication, and relationship building through online bonding.

Allowing kids more screen time during the pandemic and post pandemic has helped improve the social and mental development of kids, keeping them grounded with having something familiar from their pre-pandemic life and assuring them that the life they are used to didn’t just change suddenly, but is likely to leave them in perpetual shock. Kids need constant explanation at these periods and additional screen time can help address all the questions kids will ask and for which parents themselves cannot readily provide answers to.

Finally, through child development targeted programs and by extending screen time beyond the nontraditional means, we are able to get kids at different levels to develop themselves and learn how to express themselves, understand their social and emotional feelings and even improve academic outcomes where teachers and parents are both involved in the teaching experience at home.



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