Parents are worrying about kids’ increased screen time — but expert says that guilt isn’t healthy either

Families with small kids felt the shock waves of COVID-19 in countless ways, including the rapid increase in screen time among children — but reliance on the digital world didn’t stop once schools reopened, and it seems to be impacting households to this day.

At the height of the pandemic, nearly 93% of households with school-age children reported that their kids were involved in some form of “distance learning.”

This remote lifestyle required kids to rely on screens more than ever before, not only for their education but for their entertainment and socialization as well.

“Screen use increased during the pandemic for a variety of reasons,” Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, told In The Know. “For many kids, screens became a connection to friends and teachers when schools were closed or using a hybrid format,” Hurley explained.

Now, nearly all kids are back in the classroom — but despite our world’s gradual return to normalcy and the reversal of quarantine restrictions, studies suggest that kids’ screen use has remained elevated.

And this continued elevation has some parents feeling immense amounts of guilt.

“There seems to be a lot of guilt surrounding screen time right now, and that’s not healthy,” said Hurley.

“We are conditioned to hyperfocus on the amount of minutes spent on screens, but it’s more important to think about how screens are used. … Too much of anything online is too much,” Hurley explained.

“There are some wonderful educational tools and social connections that occur online. … I don’t recommend daily screen time for toddlers, but Sesame Street has great clips for little ones that help kids practice social skills, work through feelings, and learn about numbers, shapes, colors, and a lot of other things!”

One important life lesson kids can learn from screen use is knowing when to log off — a lesson we could all benefit from in the digital age.

“Teaching your kids to recognize when they’ve had enough is important,” said Hurley. “Fatigue, headaches, and feeling irritable are all signs of too much screen time.”

Given the digital focus of our world, it’s impossible for kids to completely avoid screens. In fact, digital literacy can benefit kids in many ways.

Like anything else, it’s all about moderation. Just as kids shouldn’t stay glued to screens, parents shouldn’t let feelings of guilt consume them. Knowing when enough is enough is key.

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