A New Back to School- Dealing with Screen Time

Yes, it is September! This time last year, many students and teachers had either just begun their school year or were gearing up to go back. This year looks a little different. With the pandemic still raging onward, many schools have chosen to start the school year either completely remote or are using a hybrid model where children switch between remote and in-person learning. This means there are many changes to come.

With so many students doing their schooling from home, in addition to other media consumption, the concerns over screen time are valid! While previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had recommended limits on how much screen time a child should have for children six and up, more recently they have changed this suggestion to creating a family media plan. Through their website, AAP has created a guide on how to set up a family media plan. These family media plans can include locations and times where a screen cannot be used. In addition, often these family media plans outline what media is being consumed (such as school work versus Minecraft).

While the AAP has changed its recommendations for children six and up, children two through five are recommended no more than one hour of quality screen time a day. This recommendation, of course, did not account for virtual preschool and kindergarten. In the wake of COVID-19, the AAP released a statement recognizing the new circumstances. They recommended that if a young child is partaking in more than an hour of screen time a day, that any extra media should be educational, positive and that caretakers should co-watch with their little ones.

In an article written by Jason M. Nagata (2020) et al. it’s noted that screen time can be used for good. Being that so many children will not have a gym class, apps that promote physical activity can be used. (Just Dance, anyone?) Beyond this, as many of us are still choosing or forced into staying at home, screens give children the opportunity to socialize. This might take the form of talking before class starts, or even for younger children to have a Zoom visit with their friends or relatives. These video chats with loved ones are even acceptable for our youngest children, under the age of two, according to Dave Anderson, PhD. These video chats help provide connection and maintain relationships.

The situation that our country is currently experiencing is new to most all of us. There is no playbook by which we can fall back on to, especially when dealing with schooling. During the last pandemic, virtual schooling was not an option. As we move forward with this unusual and unfortunate situation, we must acknowledge that things will be different this year. Being flexible with children’s use of media, screens and technology is just one of the changes we will have to make as the school year begins.

Today’s blog post was written by Sarah West, Children’s Librarian at New York Public Library in New York City, on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at sarahwest@nypl.org

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competency III. Programming Skills.

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