Screen time guidelines - what can be done?
How can families make the most of increased reliance on screens — which are helping to maintain a sense of normalcy during lockdown — while also finding the right balance with other important activities?
Here are some key things to take into account:
Staying in touch with friends is important:
During extraordinary times with a high degree of uncertainty and irregularity, it is vital for children to play and communicate with friends. Video games and social media can offer meaningful experiences during a pandemic: connectedness in a time where social interaction is reduced; entertainment when options are limited; and a tool to help take the edge off of anxiety and fear.
Active engagement and parental oversight:
Legitimate reservations around the content of some video games and a range of online risks that might befall children playing them can be mitigated by active parenting strategies. These include talking to children about their online experiences; making sure they do not play games intended for an older audience; and observing their general mood and happiness as they play. Playing video games together with children is a good way to ensure that they stay safe. It can also be a lot of fun!
Physical activity in front of screens:
Keep in mind that during a pandemic many children will not get the amount of physical activity that they are used to. Socialising and play is, for now, confined to the screen, we need new ways to help children remain active. With restricted outdoor movement, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends active video games and online exercise classes as a way to stay healthy at home. This is a good solution because it provides both physical activity and entertainment. This advice is useful both during the COVID-19 pandemic but also when life goes back to normal. WHO also offers ideas for stay-at-home physical activity
that are not digitally driven, which is useful for families with limited connectivity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic shows, we are increasingly reliant on digital technology. It has become a lifeline for those of us confined to our homes.
Now is a good time to revisit assumptions linked to children’s use of these devices, which often stem from fear of the unknown. To counter these fears, parents might use the extra time they spend together with their children while in lockdown to learn more about each other’s worlds, both digital and physical.
See our COVID-19 resources for more advice, tips and activities to support you and your family through the coronavirus pandemic, from UNICEF experts in health, early childhood development, education, and child protection.