(BPT) - Social distancing has transformed life in countless ways, especially for families that are now tasked with working remotely and homeschooling simultaneously. From work and school to entertainment and social connection, screens have become an essential tool, leaving parents contemplating screen time rules in a new light.
"Whether it's attending virtual team meetings, watching educational content for school or video chatting with loved ones, Americans are using devices more frequently, and in more ways, than ever before," says Andrew Olson, CEO of Circle, a category leader in delivering screen time management and parental control solutions to families. "As reality has shifted, it's important to shift your approach toward screen time management as well. Parents shouldn't feel guilty about extra screen time for their families during these extraordinary circumstances. What they should do is set smart guidelines that ensure a healthy balance across what we do on our screens, as well as between time spent online and off."
In the United States, the majority of 6– to 12-year-olds say they use screen devices either a lot more (at least 50% more), twice as much, or for what feels like "most of the day" during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an Axios report. With your family using devices more frequently, consider these four smart steps to manage screen time and help ensure a positive use of technology:
Step 1: Discuss screen time changes
Two hours of non-academic screen time a day is a standard followed by many parents, but during stay-at-home and social distancing orders, this may not be realistic for most families. However, it's important to talk about this shift in expectations and stress that it's temporary. While screens will always be a part of life, explain to your family that you're being more flexible since you're all spending more time at home and that this is not a permanent change.
Step 2: Maintain a schedule, and pencil in screen time
Experts recommend families maintain a familiar routine despite the current disruptions to normal life. Rise and shine, get dressed and eat breakfast to set the foundation for a productive day. Then, set periods of time when screens should be used for academic work only, keeping in mind that older students will be able to focus for longer stretches of time than younger students. For example, a first grader might work on a math program for 20 minutes before needing to shift gears while a high-schooler could dive in for an hour at a time or more.
Be sure to schedule screen time "recess" for playing games or chatting with friends online. Keep in mind, disconnecting is key as well, so have a picnic, play a board game, make an art project or try your hand at a science experiment in the kitchen.
Step 3: Add filters and controls
With children of all ages spending more time online, you want to enforce positive uses of screen time while overseeing what your kids can access and when. With Circle's award-winning parental control device and app, you can easily manage all your family’s connected devices. You can also protect your family by blocking inappropriate content, customizing settings for individual family members and applying filters to social media, videos, games, websites and apps across all devices.
What's more, you can manage the time they spend on the apps and websites that you do approve of. That means you can set limits for categories like games, social media or news. You can specify time limits, so if your child has a tendency to sneak off to build an online kingdom in a favorite game, you can make sure they do it for a reasonable amount of time each day.
Step 4: Create screen-free zones
Screens keep you connected to others beyond your home, but they can interfere with your connection to the people within your home. That's why it's important to set expectations about where and when technology use is appropriate, and where and when it's not. For example, experts recommend establishing tech-free meal times and turning screens off at least an hour before bedtime. With Circle, you can easily Pause the Internet® to make sure everyone has devices down at dinner and use the Bedtime feature to set custom bedtimes for each family member to ensure kids get the sleep they need.
These four simple steps can help your family use technology in a safe, positive way that benefits everyone, especially during this period of social distancing while many families are spending more time online. To learn more, visit www.meetcircle.com.