Are your kids glued to their screens? Are they constantly watching Netflix or Youtube? Are they scrolling through social media applications endlessly? Are they spending hours playing games on an iPad or video gaming console? If the answer to any and/or all of these questions is ‘yes,’ please know that you are not alone! The stay-at-home orders and social distancing required during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a myriad of challenges, one of them being lack of opportunity for engagement in non-technological-based activities. While technology has undeniable benefits, there are also numerous drawbacks. Of significance, Rosen and colleagues (2014) found that media and technology use predicts ill-being in children and adolescents, including increased obesity, reduced physical activity/exercise, and decreased overall health (i.e. psychological issues, behavior problems, attention problems). The following will provide some suggestions for reducing screen time, including suggestions for alternative activities!
· Create an activity schedule: Pre-plan the activities of each day with your children, being as time-specific as you can. Incorporate screen time into this schedule, as well as meals, exercise, and sleep.
· Limit screen time: Be sure to be realistic in the time limit that is set with your child. In today’s world, technology use is often necessary, especially to complete school-related tasks, so be mindful of this when setting a limit.
There are certain applications that can assist with this. For example, if you go into the settings on an iPhone, there is an entire setting for screen time. You can set application limits and downtime, among other things, through this setting.
· Sleep hygiene: It is important to use the bed for sleeping only. Take that TV out of the bedroom, keep electronic devices downstairs, and revert to the days of using an alarm clock to wake you in the morning. Additionally, try a pair of blue light glasses to reduce blue light exposure and maintain circadian rhythm.
· Education: Inform your children about the negative consequences of excessive screen time. Use research (i.e. Rosen et al., 2014) to support your statements and improve credibility.
We know that times have been tough, but try to stay as active as you can while being safe! Below are lists of activities you can do with the kids that don’t involve screen time!
· “25 Screen-Free Activities You Can Do at Home” https://fremont.macaronikid.com/articles/5e6e70d0341a0c6ba4728853/25-screen-free-activities-you-can-do-at-home
· “50+ Fun Screen Free Activities for Kids”
· “100 Unplugged Activity Ideas for Young Kids and Tweens”
Volunteering is another fantastic activity that does not always involve screen time. Below are lists of ideas for volunteering, whether that be in-person or from home!
Websites with general volunteering ideas:
· “50 Kid Friendly Volunteering Ideas”
· “15 Ways Kids Can Give Back Without Leaving the House”
Local opportunities for family/youth:
Local organizations/chapters with family/youth friendly volunteer activities:
· Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania
· Cradles to Crayons
· Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA)
· Philadelphia Reads
· Pals for Life
· William Way LGBT Community Center
· Attic Youth Center
· Habitat for Humanity
· March of Dimes
· Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation
· Youth Volunteer Corps
· Ronald McDonald House
· Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H., Griffiths, M.D., & Gradisar, M. (2012). Cognitive-behavioral approaches to outpatient treatment of Internet addiction in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 68(11), 1185-1195.
Rosen, L.D., Lim, A.F., Felt, J., Carrier, L.M., Cheever, N.A., Lara-Ruiz, J.M…&Rokkum, J. (2014). Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens, and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 364-375.