March 23, 2020
Chances are good both you and your partner are now working from home— and quite possibly trying to home-school the kids at the same time. With shelter in place mandates popping up in states around the country, we’re all staying in our homes and away from each other a lot more.
Just like that, the playbook of family life has been entirely re-written. And that inevitably includes rules around screen-time.
Experts tell us that it’s fine to be more flexible about the time your kids are spending online right now—provided you’re using effective parental controls to protect them from digital risks, compulsive use, and you maintain strict bans on screen-use in bedrooms.
But in the Age of Coronavirus, the challenges for parents go beyond simply managing screen-time or providing academic enrichment or making sure that they're washing their hands—not that there’s really anything “simple” about any of those tasks!
The number-one priority is to ensure our children feel safe “and don’t absorb all the anxiety that we’re feeling” advises parenting expert Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
“And establishing a home routine that is not centered around screens is key to creating calm for parents and children alike,” he says.
Golin makes the point that in today’s digital families, moms and dads tend to see only two parenting choices: “Being on the floor playing with our young child or putting them in front of the screen.”
“This is a really wonderful time to remind parents of all the ways that young children can … play by themselves without a screen. In fact, it’s really important that they do.”
As for providing those academic experiences—the plethora of resources available online for at-home instruction is fantastic. But it can also be overwhelming, and possibly unnecessary, particularly for younger kids.
In fact, research shows that children under age three are unlikely to learn from screens at all. It’s fine to let them watch a show or play a game on the tablet now and then—but don’t kid yourself that preschoolers’ screen-time is actually “educational.”
Instead of searching for more and better online enrichments, parents can ask simple questions like, “Are my kids getting physical exercise?” “Are they making art?” “Are they having conversations?”—not to mention, “Are they feeling safe and secure?”