Technology Screening out the bad stuff

Screening out the bad stuff

Worried about your kids’ screen time during lockdown? It’s safe to say you’re not alone but researchers at the University of South Australia have some good news.

“Not all screen time is created equally,” says Associate Professor Carol Maher.

“Many parents will be relieved to know that when computers are used for education purposes, the two-hour daily limit does not apply.”

Evidence links too much time on devices with a range of negative effects, including poor mood, low attention span, bad behaviour, obesity and other physical health problems.

But with social distancing limiting play options for kids stuck in the house all day, screen-based games and entertainment can become an easy alternative for stressed-out parents, many of whom are also working from home.

“The trouble with screen time is that it’s elastic, meaning that the time spent watching TV, gaming or playing on an iPad can vary dramatically, often stretching beyond initial intentions,” Associate Professor Maher says.

Most parents will be familiar with the “five more minutes” plea that somehow turns into half an hour as they struggle to meet work deadlines, prepare meals or complete any of the myriad other household tasks that must now somehow be squeezed into unfamiliar routines created by the COVID-19 crisis.

So it’s a relief to know that, with the right content, screen-time can also be beneficial.

“For example, educational video games that help kids practice maths, typing skills and so on, are great, as are STEM-focused YouTube channels that conduct all sorts of experiments and investigations,” Associate Professor Maher says.

“Social media also has a place, especially with teens, as it allows them to stay connected with their friends when meeting up in person isn’t possible.

“If we are relegated to a limited home environment, parents can take comfort in the fact that working from home relieves them from commuting, freeing up time and delivering a higher degree of flexibility to rearrange working hours to suit their family’s needs.”

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