I chatted to my best friend on the phone this week and she said “our screen time rules have gone out the window.” She was right. Our screen time parameters had disappeared too. TV, iPads…who cares? Surely as long as we balance it with plenty of time outside, I think we are all doing just fine. I just do my usual quick check which consists of one thing. Are the children happy? If the answer is yes, then we are winning at parenting.

Today, about 3 billion people are in lockdown around the world — and almost 90% of the student population cut off from school. It’s no surprise that a lot of children and their parents are increasingly connecting to the outside world through screens they might have once regarded with restraint or even reproach.

As parents are struggling with new routines and rules, don’t be too upset if your screen-time guidelines have fallen to pieces. Screens are the bane of my existence because it can be so hard to pull the kids away from them. But; equally, they are joy of my world. Not to mention a constant source of guilt! However, let’s not just put all screens onto the naughty list. I know they get such a bad reputation these days but let us remember that we are using screens to check on neighbours, friends and family members.

I have been watching my eight year old son communicate with his class over Zoom. All the boys spoke over each other, laughed and whooped. It was complete chaos. Afterwards he said “that was so fun mum. When can we do it again?” Despite hardly getting a word in edgeways, the zoom experience made his friends feel so close when they are all far away. It really helped to feed his loss of his school community. Even more so that I had expected.

So, here’s what I have learned from this lockdown experience over the past few weeks:-

  • 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. These online connections 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: When we think about online experiences, sometimes playing video games together with the children can be fun as well as ensuring they are staying safe online!
  • 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. If learning, socialising and play is, for now, confined to the screen, we need new ways to help children remain active. With restricted outdoor movement, the WHO has recommended online exercise classes as a way to stay healthy at home. This is a good solution because it provides both physical activity and entertainment.

In summary, we are all trying to navigate this new world, so I think it’s okay to switch up the rules up a bit. Children can take a little responsibility themselves too. Learn how to find a balance between technology use, some physical activity, some reading and some crucial family connection time.

It will be fine. #InItTogether