The Covid-19 pandemic changed many routines at a global level from various orders, and life within households also had its transformations.
Teleworking grew exponentially and children and teenagers became witnesses to the work of their parents who, countless times, dreamed of being able to have their children in schools, closed in the midst of the necessary social isolation.
In this context, parents allowed their children greater exposure to videogames, television, mobile phones and social media.
According to a survey with the participation of more than 3,000 parents in the United States, screen time for their kids rose by 500% during the impact from Covid-19, which emerged at the end of last year in China.
This study was cited by James M. Lang, professor and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, Massachussets, in an article that came to light in the middle of July on the website The Conversation, a platform for teaching and university research work.
Following daily guidelines by the World Health Organisation, those under one year of age should have no choice in the matter and those from one to five years could spend up to one hour per day looking at devices.
Although the WHO did not specify restrictions for older children, studies confirm that excessive screen time can be related to mental health problems for them, such as anxiety and depression, Lang said. Before the pandemic, in almost the entire world, children were having much more of this time than was recommended.
Lang asked, on the aforementioned matter, if parents should be worried about this situation for their children until they can study and socialise freely once again.
In the investigator’s opinion, trying to eliminate distractions for students during learning takes the wrong approach, as the human brain is naturally prone to this state. The problem with distractions at school is not the distractions themselves; children and adults can use social media or view screens in perfectly healthy ways, Lang says.
He believes that the difficulty comes when excessive attention to screens displaces other learning behaviours.
A child who watches YouTube on their phone in a classroom or during study time is not developing their writing skills or acquiring new vocabulary.
Then, experts confirm, teacher should evaluate how to cultivate better attention to these behaviours, instead of trying to suppress all the distractions.
In the same way, parents should not consider screens as their children’s enemies, even if they need to be cautious about the impact of the period of screen exposure on their eye health and on their sleep.
When children watch screens passively, they are not doing exercise nor playing with their friends or family, neither are they curled up with their parents during story time.
“Parents,” Lang adds, “should worry about whether their children are forming unhealthy habits and lacking in creativity that will continue after the end of this health crisis”, he advises.
He says that if children can return to the relatively more beneficial levels of screen time that they had before Covid-19, they will probably be fine.
Nobody wants little children’s brains to develop as organs primarily designed to witness television marathons and videogames. Children should be encouraged to return to adequate and imaginative behaviours. (PL)