How to manage screen time while children are home during coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

Children learning, connecting with family members online

DETROIT – Screen time for our kids looks completely different during the pandemic with many using tablets and computers for online or remote learning. However they also want to use it for fun. For parents, it can be a struggle to manage all that digital time without a plan.

"I definitely think give kid grace especially as they're online learning," said Katey McPherson, an ERCA Group Inc. associate who travels the country teaching digital dos and don'ts to parents and children.

McPherson said parents should think of online learning as your child’s daily dose of digital vegetables, everything else is digital candy so to speak. She said that could be any game that has no redeeming quality or mindless apps like SnapChat, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram.

McPherson says have good parental controls in place, “meaning, do you have a good router family data plan contract with reasonable boundaries and limits, because we can’t have a total free-for-all.”

The recommended screen time for children five and older is two hours a day including TV time. So should you consider letting your child have more time?

McPherson suggests starting with two hours as your baseline limit and see how that works for you and go from there. She said this is a fluid situation and everyone is still trying to get used to this new normal. She recommends coming up with a plan with your children.

She said to sit down as a family and say for the next 90 days we’re not sure what this is going to look like, ask your children what they think is fair? And tell them what mom and dad think and then work with your kids depending on age.

McPherson also recommends using technology to help your children connect to family and friends.

"Social distancing shouldn't mean social disengagement," McPherson said.

She said there are some really great apps including GroupMe, House Party, FaceTime and Zoom, however, when they are supervised. She wouldn’t allow kids to use this apps behind bedroom or bathroom doors.

McPherson said if your child already struggles with screen time, don't lift limits.

And with extra gaming, remember some video games can be addictive.

"Although they are communicating (through video games) you still want bodies moving, that physical touch happening in the home, lots of hugs and connection with mom and dad as well," McPherson said.

Lastly if you additional screen time, McPherson said you will have to wean them off it eventually. She said to take that process slow.