Managing children's screen time as we come out of the pandemic

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 01, 2021

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — After spending more time in isolation amid the pandemic, many families have also spent more time in front of screens. Especially after a year of E-Learning, parents say their children have spent more time stuck to their devices.

Ashley Schmitz, a mother of three from Peshtigo, says her children's use of electronics noticeably increased at the start of the pandemic.

“They had tablets from school that they would get," Schmitz said. "They pretty much had to do learning a lot of the time on that when it first started so it was a lot on tablets”

Heather Kirkorian, an associate professor of human development and family studies at UW-Madison, says too much screen time can potentially have negative effects on children at a young age.

"Especially for really young children excessive screen time can be associated with things like language delays and attention delays,” Kirkorian said.

Parents also say they've noticed behavioral changes in their children after a year of excessive screen time. Schmitz says she felt like her children suffered from a lack of social interaction.

“I think it does affect their behavior in a sense because it seems like there’s less time with other children,” Schmitz said.

But Kirkorian says it’s not necessarily the amount of screen time that parents should watch, but the quality of the content they consume and the social context in which they consume it.

She says excessive screen time won't necessarily have negative effects if the content is age-appropriate, educational, and if children can consume it in a way that facilitates interaction with others.

"Are they just using screens alone without supervision? Or are they using screens together with other people, whether that means interacting with other kids and communicating or playing games with other kids,” Kirkorian said.

Above all, she says its about finding a balance between screen time and social interaction. When used correctly, she says screen time can become an enriching experience for young children.

“Socially rich screen time can be really valuable even for little kids," Kirkorian said. "Using video chat applications to connect with family members, even educational television or television that sparks important critical thinking conversations or taking perspectives of other people. For younger younger kids, conversations around that kind of TV content is really important."