MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A lot of children are spending more time in front of screens than ever before.

A study by the non-profit group Parents Together found screen time during the pandemic has increased 500% for nearly half of the families that responded.

At a time when many kids are doing hybrid or distance learning, Oliver, 5, is learning outside in his own backyard.

“He made his own little spider web here and bug drawings,” mom Heidi Still, from Minneapolis, said.

Still chose to homeschool rather than the distance learning option through the district.

“I was trying to imagine having him sitting in front of a screen for four-plus hours a day,” she said.

Research has shown excess screen time can be a risk factor in obesity, insomnia, behavior problems, and problems in school.

Doctor Krishnan Subrahmanian says there is a difference between recreational screen time and interactive.

If they’re doing it for academic reasons or really good content media that’s a really valuable thing,” Dr. Subrahmanian said.

A Zoom call with grandma? That’s interactive.

The key, Dr. Subrahmanian says, is to set boundaries. He recommends:

  • No screen time close to bedtime.
  • Have at least one meal that’s completely screen-free.
  • Be involved in what your kids are watching.
  • Schedule physical activity breaks.

“We’ll just go outside,” mom of four Sarah Goodman, from Maple Grove, said. “We’ll play baseball with Crue outside or we’ll play with chalk on the sidewalk.”

Goodman cut out extra screen time outside of school hours for her two children doing distance learning through the Wayzata school district.

“Now you’re on school so long that your free iPad time we’re cutting back on,” Goodman said.

Above all Dr. Subrahmanian says to remember to give yourself as a parent some grace during this time.

“This is a very stressful time and we need parents to have good mental health for our kids to get through it.”

To create a personalized family media use plan, click here. 

Kate Raddatz

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