Controlling screen time while social distancing, remote learning

It was just a few months ago that it was a regular concern in the headlines and something many were actively trying to cut back on: screen time overload.

As smart phones have risen in popularity over the years, concerns about the long term effects of staring at a screen all day have come out left and right. Worries about brain development, mental state, and damage to people’s eyes just to name a few.

Then came COVID-19. Now, as most spend their days at home, social distancing, screen time has skyrocketed for people everywhere.

Whether it’s scrolling social media, working remotely, going to school through a screen, binging away the boredom, video calling with friends, or any other device based passing of the time: the screen has become the link to the world for people everywhere.

"So much of what we're doing is requiring digital media and devices,” said Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a clinical psychologist and brand ambassador to screen time management app Qustodio.

Dr. Beurkens said she’s been getting a lot of questions about managing screen time, especially for kids during this current crisis.

"There's some room obviously for flexibility when we enter a situation like this where kids are inherently going to need to be using screens more,” she said.

Initially, the concern over the topic was low as it seemed social distancing would be a short-lived situation, but as it drags on, Dr. Beurkens said the amped-up device use needs to be addressed. After all, a pandemic doesn’t magically make the dangers of excessive screen time just vanish.

So, Dr. Beurkens urges parents, and people everywhere to approach the problem in a different way. She says don’t focus on shutting off the screen, rather focus on shifting attention away from the screens to other activities.

"Getting their homework packet done, playing, being outside and getting movement,” she said. "Let's build those things into the day and then the other time, if they're spending on screens, that's okay because we've hit our priorities."

She also recommends, if you are having trouble cutting down still, try a screen time management app to set boundaries. The screens are going to be a big part of life for a while.  She says just do your best.