Screen over-load in Lockdown
Eyes on Lock-down
EDIT: Dr Michael Jones was interviewed on the ABC Breakfast show with Josh Szeps, 9th April 2021. Listen to the full interview here by clicking link below.
For the majority of 2020, life for most Australians has been impacted either directly or indirectly by COVID-19. For millions of Victorians, life changed dramatically in July when new Coronavirus orders came into effect, placing metropolitan Melbourne back into lock-down after only a fleeting moment of relief, following the first wave orders many states in Australia faced from March. Schools, shopping centres, cafes and restaurants were all forced to close as stage 4 lock-down was re-introduced. Children have been home schooling for most of their academic year which has meant increased screen time and potential for a more sedentary lifestyle among children and adults.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been concerns shared among parents and ophthalmologists, about the amount of time their children spent in front of screens and monitors. Recent events have made this even more of an issue. It has been difficult to encourage children to switch off devices and exercise.
Eye Health & Screen Time
There are many reasons for parents to be mindful about how much screen time they allow their children. The amount of daily screen use has been associated with:
- Developmental outcomes
- Poor sleep quality
- Eye development
Expert organisations have created guides for parents to help understand the facts uncovered in scientific research. WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines published in 2019 suggest no screen time at all for children before the age of 1, and very limited screen time for children until the age of 4.
The AMA (American Academy of Paediatrics) recommends no digital media use in children younger than 18-24 months. They then encourage a focus on educational media when children do start to use devices.
Preventing Screen over load in Lock-down
So with lock-down laws forcing the majority of children to stay home and participate in online learning, how do we prevent screen over load in our homes?!
The best way is to promote as many breaks from screens as possible and encourage as much physical activity in the day as possible.
Ultimately it is important to exercise common sense with screen / device use:
- Set time limits – try limiting screen time to only 2 hours per day – try and complete as many class activities as possible using a pencil and paper, rather than on a device.
- When using a screen, ensure that your children take a 5-10 minute break every 30-45 mins of screen time. Setting a timer to remind children to do this helps! Getting up and walking around every 30-45 minutes is also helpful to encourage activity and improve posture.
- As a general rule, children should be spending most of their time away from screens and only a small portion of their time in front of screens.
- Spending time outdoors – there are well-known health benefits of time spent outdoors, such as Vitamin D exposure and physical exercise. Recent studies have linked sun exposure to a decrease in the prevalence of myopia (short-sightedness).
- Aim for at least 2 hours of outdoor play each day – invent interesting outdoor activities and participate with your children.
This is undoubtedly a very challenging and difficult time for many families across the country, in particular those in Melbourne and regional Victoria. We understand that in trying to do the right thing at such an unprecedented time, while both working and teaching your children simultaneously, that this can create a lot of anxiety and stress in the home. Try and take some time out for yourself and your family – there are hundreds of great ideas online on ways to keep your family sane during the COVID-19 Crisis – try some of the games and activities suggested here https://childmind.org/article/supporting-kids-during-the-covid-19-crisis/