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Gary Direnfeld

Screen Time and Kids During Coronavirus Between Separated Parents

Let’s face it, you may never have been on the same page as your co-parent with regard to screen time. Indeed, some parents are in conflict as to whether their children should have access to a screen at all if not for educational purposes.

Today’s experience with this pandemic may be upending your thoughts.

Given lockdown, many parents are seeing their kids flock to their screens, spending an inordinate amount of time online.

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There are three things worth thinking about when considering screen time while coping with this pandemic:

1) Kids may feel tremendously isolated. Access to their screen allows them to connect with peers. Staving off social isolation by remaining connected can facilitate mental health. This is also a time when distanced from a parent, the child can maintain the relationship. This in most circumstances facilitates a sense of personal security, worth and value. It is important to remember that if one parent doesn’t feel good about the other, the child may still value the relationship, seeing both parents as part of themselves.

2) Just as many parents are working from home, so too are pedophiles and other people who would seek to exploit children. While you or your child may appreciate privacy, it remains important for parents to maintain some degree of supervision on children’s online activity. The degree of supervision will differ depending on the age of the child. A conversation, age appropriate, about safe Internet use would be constructive.

3) As for how much screen time is appropriate will be determined by each and every parent for their kids. To help determine how much is enough or too much consider that screen time should not interfere with other obligations be they household or educational, r in terms of physical activity. If screen time becomes a struggle, that is an indication it may be too much and the parent may have to set some limits on use. Use can be dependent on meeting other expectations and limited to a fixed amount of time at certain times in the day. Screen time should not continue past an expectation of bedtime. For that, the screens may need to be removed from a child’s bedroom.

Hopefully those three considerations can help parents remain on a similar page with regard to their child’s screen time.

As always, the degree to which parents can agree on rules for use, the better your child may respond. This doesn’t mean though that you can’t have different expectations and rules.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 350 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.

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