As a result of the quarantine, new studies are starting to come out showing that being online all day can affect your health, make you anxious, give you headaches, affect your vision, and affect your sleep.
Long before we were sheltering in place, Melissa Pandika in “The Unexpected Effects of all that Screen Time,” reported on symptoms shown by children, tweens, teens and adults as a result of too much screen time. Although the internet can allow for community building and connection, Pandika, quoting Delaney Ruston, a physician and documentary filmmaker who produced Screenagers, warns that social development can be curtailed when teens and tweens hide behind the screen to avoid meaningful social contact.
Pandika also cites studies that highlight the negative impact on our physical health from too much screen time. These include sleep problems, eye problems, weight gain (with added risk for Type 2 Diabetes).
When younger children spend time on screens, they are not spending time with loving adults, and this may interfere with their emotional development as well as their language skills.
Not long ago, parents had to struggle with their kids who craved more screen time to watch videos, play games, and go on social media to engage with friends. It was difficult to discern whether such socializing was a positive or a negative. And sometimes it was just easier to allow kids to be on their screens than to argue with them or find alternative means to entertain them.
Quite suddenly, though, due to COVID-19 and the shelter at home orders, parents are struggling to get their children ON screens so that they can be at school on Zoom or complete schoolwork online.
It is very important for children to continue their learning, and teachers, students and parents all over the country are doing an amazing, if not painless, job of converting to remote schooling, On April 16, the New York Times editorial board warned of a significant “learning loss crisis,” due to lost school time. We need to keep school going online to mitigate such a crisis in learning.
So how do we counter the effects of too much necessary screen time?
Get away from your screens when you are not working or in school. I’ve thought of five things children can do to entertain themselves that don’t involve screens. Older children may be able to do these on their own; for younger children, these are family activities.
Go outside every day. Walk, run, ride a bike. The other day, I saw a mom teaching her son how to skateboard. While outside, plant some flower seeds and, on your daily trip outside, watch to see them grow.
Play a board game. In my therapeutic work with children, which has admittedly moved online, I have played Mancala, Sorry, Toy Story Monopoly, and Candyland. While it is true that I am online with the children in my practice, they are playing with a real board game. If possible, play with someone in your house, so they are not going online to play games.
Learn to cook or bake, or teach a child to cook or bake. There are thousands of recipes online. If you must, find the recipe there, but then get into the kitchen and leave your screen behind..
Don’t be so quick to recycle all those boxes you are getting from deliveries. Instead, make something. My grandson and his parents made an amazing spaceship. (They got the idea for the spaceship from the book What Should Darla Do, by Ganit and Adir Levy.) You could make a fort, a race car, or just about anything you can imagine. With some markers and perhaps some pictures that you could cut out of an old magazine, you can decorate your cardboard creation.
And finally, turn on some music and have a DANCE PARTY!