5 Tips for Managing Screen Time During Coronavirus

Written by Leticia Barr, Founder, Tech Savvy Mama
March 25, 2020
Children are in front of screens for school, socializing, and entertainment.
Children are in front of screens for school, socializing, and entertainment.

With school systems across the country closed because of coronavirus, we’ve had to alter the way we live, work, socialize, and educate our kids. The screen time rules that once worked may no longer apply. Life at home has changed drastically and screen time rules have to reflect our new circumstances.

Be Realistic

New requirements by school systems to attend class via Zoom or Google Hangouts, complete assignments online, and email or use chat windows for teacher help have changed how our kids are learning during coronavirus school closures.

Staying connected is important for children.

Kids will be using technology for school, socialization, and entertainment.

This is a huge shift from just doing homework online or using smartphones for socializing with friends outside the school day.

Instead of setting limits based on hours and minutes like you might have done in the past, come to terms with the fact that your kids will be spending more time in front of screens.

It’s hard to associate an amount of time our kids will be spending in front of screens and that just has to be OK.

Revisit Screen Time Rules

There’s no better time than the present to revisit your family’s technology rules. Suddenly we’re forced to telework while our schools turn to online platforms for learning. Social interaction from a screen becomes a way to practice safe social distancing.

The technology rules you once had in place for your family need to change. Free online tools like The Smart Talk can help inspire conversation about how technology will be used in your home during the coming weeks and set new ground rules.

Understand the Importance of Socializing Through Screen Time

Our kids crave social interaction in an age of social distancing. Fortunately, technology tools can help them stay connected in ways we never had as kids. Here are some ways that kids are socializing through screen time:

  • Facetiming with a friend
  • Engaging in group texts
  • Keeping up Snapstreats on Snapchat
  • Sharing TikTok videos and DMing each other funny video clips through Instagram
  • Making plans with friends to meet in an online chat room to play video games together
  • Setting up a Zoom meeting or Google Hangout with friends or grandparents

Even though you may not have allowed your kids to use these platforms before, it’s worth revisiting your rules. Consider what tools your child’s peers are using to interact and what is age appropriate. Set limits based on their need to be social while recognizing the importance of social distancing.

Continue Monitoring Devices

With our kids relying on online learning platforms and screens to socialize, it’s more important than ever to monitor what they’re doing on their devices. Checking in with them regularly, encouraging them to use devices in common spaces, requiring open bedroom doors, and reviewing ratings on the games they’re playing helps but we can’t be everywhere at once.

Parents can monitor parental controls from their phones.

Be sure to monitor your screen use too!

Be sure to set parental controls on video game consoles and mobile devices to block by age rating, control spending, limit the time spent playing, and restrict communication with others. ParentalTools provides easy step-by-step instructions to follow.

We’re attempting to work, parent, and educate our kids in a way we’re not used to so get some help from technology tools like Bark.

Model & Manage Appropriate Technology Use

Now that we’re so reliant on being online for work and school, it’s more important than ever to model and manage appropriate technology use. Here are three tips:

  • Block out time to work — If you need to telework, be honest with your kids about your work time. Create a family schedule and block out time to work. Let your kids know when you’ll need to work and what they should do during this time.
  • Preserve family meals as screen-free zones — If you expect your kids to put down their phones during meals, you need to do the same. Picking up your phone to read a text, refer to an article you’ve read, or to finish an email in front of your kids sends a subliminal message that it’s OK to be on phones at the table.
  • Give yourself permission to take breaks — It’s easy for work to creep into family time when working from home but keep it at bay with free tools like Gmail Auto Reply, Do Not Disturb, and the Android Wind Down Screen.

This is a trying time so be kind to yourself and show your kids you can be flexible, especially when it comes to screen time.

Leticia Barr is an ESRB Parent Ambassador, middle school teacher, and founder of the award-winning Tech Savvy Mama site that has been helping parents navigate in the Digital Age for more than a decade.  Leticia can be found here on  FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and Snapchat.