How to balance screen time with remote learning

SPOKANE, Wash. — Parents who have a limit on screen time for children: get ready to break them. Remote learning means a good chunk of the day will be spent online, which is why creating a healthy balance of physical activity and online learning is more important than ever.

Extra screen time is inevitable for students this fall.

“That’s just the way it has to be right now because of the pandemic, it just becomes important to have more balance,” said Danica Parkin, a family nurse practitioner with Mt. Spokane Pediatrics.

Balance is they key word here. While students will be in front of a screen for almost half a day, it’s those little breaks in between lessons that parents should take advantage of.

Instead of using those breaks with more recreational screen time, get outside.

“Instead, do some jumping jacks, go on a walk around the block, being active while they have those breaks,” she said.

Even though the weather is getting colder, Parkin says it’s still important to get students outside – just bundle up.

If not, Parkin suggests using screens for physical activity, too. She says YouTube and other websites do have activities for kids that can help them be active.

“Like children’s yoga or exercise videos. So, those can be helpful if we’re at the point where we need to stay inside,” she said

When possible, parents should also pay attention to their child’s physical health as well. With so much time in front of a screen, that could be impacted.

“Squinting, complaining of headaches, especially if it’s at the end of the day after they’ve had lots of screen time, that would be the red flags for me,” Parkin said.

At that point, parents could try over-the-counter medicines for school-age children. Parents can also take them to their pediatrician or eye doctor if it continues.

Watching them closely online is also a good idea in the safety aspect. Parkin said it’s important for parents to be checking their kid’s devices. Parents should also talk to them about the dangers of the internet and how they can be safe on it.

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In addition to helping kids maintain that balance, Parkin said parents should cut themselves some slack, too. Your kids won’t be the only ones who will be online all day.

“Make sure you’re still taking time to connect as a family and just doing those things that provide balance in your life, since you have to have so much screen time right now,” Parkin said.

Limiting screen time before bed is also suggested. Parkin said kids shouldn’t be on their phones or other technology an hour before bed, saying it affects their sleep. She suggests playing a board game with family or even reading could help them wind down before going to sleep.

Even kids are learning remotely, it could give them a little sense of normalcy on the mental health side.

“I’ve seen a lot more kids feeling anxious, worried and sad since the pandemic began. So, I think that actually having the routines of school, even though it’s online, might actually be good, and they might actually feel like they have more social connection,” Parkin said.

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