The doctor is in: Screen time

If screen time is the only way I can survive my workday, what should I do to help my child and minimize the negative effects of extra screen time when I am not at work?

In my work with families, screen time has become a huge point of discussion and conflict, particularly during the pandemic, as we learn, work and play on our screens. My first point of advice to all parents is to not beat yourself up. If you have guilt about the amount of time your family is spending on screens and you’re comparing that screen time to the pre-pandemic…don’t. We are all just trying to survive right now. 

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I would recommend holding a family meeting to discuss the screen time rules for ­everybody (parents included!). Write the rules down where everybody can see and have all family members sign them. Let your child participate with his/her ideas to increase their buy-in. Maybe, your family comes up with a plan that everybody is allowed to stay on their screens until dinner time. Maybe the family has to have one shared screen experience a night (like a movie or collaborative video game). Maybe weekends are screen-free zones. The rules are yours and what works for your family.   

It is important to note that while children are looking like screen addicts these days, so much in the “real world” has been taken from them — sports, clubs, interacting with friends — and so the screen likely represents their primary form of socialization and enjoyment. While it is tempting to take away screens as punishment, instead, have the child earn additional screen time for helping around the house or completing schoolwork on time. The best thing you can do is model what you want to see your child do in your own actions and continue to be creative to make family memories and shared meaning as we navigate through this crazy time together. 

— Dr. Katrina Lindsay, Ph.D. NCSP, Licensed Pediatric Psychologist, Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Akron Children’s Hospital