Minimizing Screen Time in the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has turned many of our lives and routines upside down. While I am all for finding the silver lining in even the most challenging of situations, the length of this pandemic and disruption to our day to day lives is a heavy burden for even the most high-spirited amongst us. One of the most challenging aspects of socially distancing and working (or schooling) from home is the sheer amount of time we are now forced to spend on our screens. From meetings to happy hours to a child's gym class, the vast majority of our activities keep us engaging with some sort of screen-based platform or activity.
I recently watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix, and while I have no ties to the film, directors, etc., I consider it a must-watch for anyone who uses or allows their children to use social media. I think it is important that we remain conscious consumers of social media content, and that individuals be educated on the way that social media is used to slowly and systematically change our behavior.
So what can we do to balance this constant screen time? Children must go to school and parents must attend meetings and keep working. In short, I'd encourage each and every one of you reading this blog to make a concerted effort to steer clear of screens and technology when the work/school hours are over. Re-engage with family members through activities that can be enjoyed by everyone (or enjoy some much-needed "me" time without the distraction of social media, family, etc.), specifically those that do not require electronics. It is amazing to see the items, toys, games and otherwise that families are selling at garage sales or getting rid of- perhaps pick up a few (or dust off those bins in the basement) and get your family involved in these classic experiences. Often, second-hand swapping amongst neighbors or friends is a great way to try out new board games and other activities without breaking the bank.
Here are some things families can do instead of social media:
Puzzles: cheap and fun, these can be a great way to spend time. Perhaps when you finish you could share the puzzle with a neighbor or friend's family!
Board Games/Word Games: dust off Scrabble, grab some paper for Pictionary, or hop on the couch and play Charades. There are always Sudoku books, Word Searches, Crossword puzzles and other word games that can be completed on paper as opposed to on screen. Even better, pull out Twister and get the whole family moving!
Tag/Hide and Go Seek: as the weather gets cooler, this is a great way to get exercise and stay warm while playing outside!
Hiking/Local Parks: the fall colors are beautiful this time of year! Perhaps you create a fall collage with leaves and other materials collected on your walk!
Book Reading: power down your kindle and pop to the local library (following social distancing/contactless pickup directions, of course).
Coloring/Drawing/Painting/Magazine Crafts: cut inspirational quotes or pictures from a magazine to make a vision board, make a wishlist or holiday toy list by cutting out pictures instead of typing a list, pull together random art supplies and see what you and your family can create!
Sidewalk Chalk: color pictures, play tic tac toe, draw a family scene, play hopscotch or 4 square.
Cooking: nothing reinforces math facts like measuring qualities in a recipe, and who doesn't like to eat a new tasty treat?
Couch Forts: pillows, blankets, toys, secret entrances, passwords for entry...
Workout/Physical Activity: from "Simon says" to "red-light, green-light," there are many ways to keep even the youngest of children engaged in active play!
I am quite sure there are many other options that aren't listed above, but I hope this inspires you to steer clear of the screens and reengage in the world around you (no matter what your age!). If you struggle to get your children and teens on board, try making it into a fun family challenge. Whoever spends the LEAST amount of time on their electronic devices (outside of work and school activities) can either choose the next family event, get a second helping of dessert, or win some sort of prize! We all like a challenge, and challenges are a very motivating way to make changes to our behavior!
We know families are exhausted, burnt out and eager to return to some sense of normalcy. As we head into the winter months, please reach out if the doctors at NPANJ can be of assistance or support you and your family! We will get through this together!