Coronavirus Kent: Screen time with children whilst social distancing

by Lauren Abbott

After our first weekend at home since stricter measures were introduced I think days are best summed up (in the style of the alphabet game doing the rounds on facebook) - with the letter S: social distancing, scooters, some sunshine and screen time.

The latter being something I'm fast coming to accept will need to play a bigger role and is very much part and parcel of our 'new normal', particularly for the children.

Has anyone been brave enough to check their screen time clocks?
Has anyone been brave enough to check their screen time clocks?

I think any adult brave enough to check their phone's weekly screen time calculator, will probably also find that a reliance on devices has shot up since we've all been forced to spend more time indoors and are communicating with the outside world in different ways.

We have opted for daily scooter rides, as the suggestion of a walk round the streets generates far too many moans and groans, and we've discovered that with more people home and more cars parked on the streets, bike riding the paths was impossible as both kids, riding without stabilisers, skimmed too close at speed to people's wing mirrors and vehicle doors.

(As their supply teacher, when I complete their school reports at the end of this unusual term of home learning, spacial awareness is definitely going down as 'requiring improvement'.)

And so alongside a brief bit of gardening and planting when the weather was at its warmest, some time playing in the garden and a short spell emptying every LEGO box we own, there was without doubt a lot of time in which Oscar and Liv both had some sort of screen under their noses, particularly as the weather gradually turned colder.

The tablets, phones, laptops and tv definitely had far more use than I'd expect them to have on a normal weekend. Remember those?!

Similar to many families I'm sure, weekends with the kids would ordinarily be filled with hobbies and clubs, perhaps a shopping trip, longer family outings to the park or coast, perhaps a school friend's birthday party or a visit to see relatives, all of which are on hold for now.

There has been a fair amount of gaming from Oscar, 9.
There has been a fair amount of gaming from Oscar, 9.

And whilst I won't go as far as to say my children have had nothing to do (and wouldn't dare let them utter it either!) amongst time outside, with toys and games and some colouring and drawing - have been screens to both pass the time and make their weekend feel a little like it used to in a number of ways.

There have been those for playing computer games, screens to watch tv shows or use the internet, some to watch afternoon or evening films, to follow dance moves and a fair amount of time spent shouting at laptops as they attempted to make contact with their classmates in a chaotic but endearing fashion as between two and six familiar little faces dropped in and out of video chats all trying to get each others attention and convey their news in a rabble of voices and laughter.

I did have a quick look to see what advice the internet gods throw up for 'screen time and coronavirus' which perhaps unsurprisingly include suggestions to give clear time limits, balance time with setting out other activities for children and leading by example!

Liv, 6, has definitely spent more time than normal glued to a tablet
Liv, 6, has definitely spent more time than normal glued to a tablet

But in these early stages, as we all adjust, I'm very much picking my battles. And whilst 'tidy up after yourselves', 'don't torment your brother/sister' and 'calm down' are regular requests, social-distancing or no social-distancing, screen time became more of an unlimited, non-rationed, Saturday and Sunday free-for-all.

The same can't be said for weekdays, with the welcome arrival of school work today and the return to more of a routine Monday to Friday.

That is until the next day off, weekend or school holiday. And word on the home-school streets, is that all of those are rolling round frighteningly quickly!

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