Young girls are watching TV of camera.

Tech & Media

It’s Impossible To Limit My Kids’ Screen Time During The Pandemic

Apr 3, 2020

Last year the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital published a study that found a link between excessive screen time and reduced white brain matter in preschool-aged children. As a mom to three kids, ages three, six and eight, I find this study just slightly alarming, but also not surprising. Science has already proven that screen time can increase chances of obesity, disturb sleep patterns and lead to behavioural challenges in children. Despite the latest research, I’m unwilling to give up my daughter’s daily obsession with Peppa Pig in my home.

"The reality is that Netflix is the most reliable babysitter I have."

Like other parents raising children in the 21st century, I’m trying to nurture my kids in a fast-paced digital world and struggling to keep up. Right now we’re also dealing with a global pandemic, and I’m finding it especially challenging to balance work, household chores, educating my children and finding a moment to myself to recharge. If my kids enjoyed a bit too much TV pre-COVID-19, then we’re all-out over-consuming at this point.

CBC Gem is jam-packed with free Canadian shows and movies for kids! See our playlist recommendations here.

Right now my kids are at home while my husband works in a make-shift office in the basement, and I hole up in a quiet room trying to write breaking news stories. Social isolation with three kids comes with its own unique challenges; some mornings I conduct interviews with impressive Ivy League-educated sources from my bedroom, while my youngest daughter naps across the hall, and my older daughters watch TV downstairs.

"I’d love to toss the television and embrace a lifestyle that is free from the digital world, but I have a hard time imagining my life running smoothly without Paw Patrol in it — especially right now."

Oftentimes I allow my children to play games on our iPad while I tackle chores and work, but the guilt still eats away at me. Even in the age of corona, I feel like I’m failing my children by allowing excessive screen time. I want to be one of those parents that has woven baskets full of wooden toys that entertain my children for hours, or a perfect schedule that dictates how we spend our day, but the reality is that Netflix is the most reliable babysitter I have.

I was raised in the guilt-free 1990s, a time when parents fed their children sugary cereal and microwavable dinners, and lazy weekends spent in front of the TV was the norm. I could watch after-school specials every day and my hard-working single mother wasn’t guilted or shamed by scientific studies on the dangers of digital media. Granted, it was a different time in many ways — I didn’t have a screen in my pocket, or access to computers or tablets in the classroom, but I still watched hours of TV daily.

To help manage screen time, this dad works with his kids to set rules and consequences for phone, tablet and computer use. Read his POV here.

Today we’re calling on parents to stop with the screen time without asking them why they’re offering it in the first place. I’d love to toss the television and embrace a lifestyle that is free from the digital world, but I have a hard time imagining my life running smoothly without Paw Patrol in it — especially right now. I’d love it if my kids had grandparents that weren’t isolated in their own homes, but we’re navigating life without any family or social support outside our home. I long for the good old days when neighbors and friends could congregate and let our kids run wild together. I’d happily pull back on screen time, if only I had a village of people nearby to help me when life becomes too hard to manage on my own.

While screen time guidelines are well intentioned, their helpfulness is lacking — they’re not exactly considering parents dealing with a global pandemic. It’s obvious that families were overwhelmed and overburdened with responsibility. I felt this way pre-corona, and nowadays I'm way more overwhelmed. Most of us already understand that excessive time spent in the digital world is not our best option, but right now we don’t have an alternative.

Turning on the TV or handing over a mobile device is a solution that is hard to compete with right now. I’ll give you back screen time when you give me back my village.

Article Author Brianna Bell
Brianna Bell

Read more from Brianna here.

Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based in Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including Scary Mommy, The Penny Hoarder, and The Globe and Mail.

Brianna's budget-savvy ways have attracted media attention and led to newspaper coverage in The Globe and Mail and The Guelph Mercury.

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