Screen Time During a Pandemic:

Visual Development, Handling Limits, and Ideas for Balance

Screen time has always been a bit of a taboo …until COVID-19. Here are my thoughts to help you make decisions and navigate this time in our lives.

* Screens are really important right now during this pandemic, which might go on for a long time.

* Using screens to connect is different than habitually sitting a child in front of a screen for long periods of time.

Visual perception in age 0 – 2

* My main concern from an infant development perspective is visual perception in age 0 – 2. Visual development includes hand-eye coordination, hand-to-mouth coordination, depth perception (the ability to judge how close or far away something is), spatial awareness, visual memory, and the ability to understand foreground vs background.

It also includes visual discrimination–the ability to recognize details, such as differences between shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. This ability to figure out similarities and differences between objects helps us understand our environment. Interacting with 3D object helps inform the brain about all of these things and is very different from habitually watching a 2D screen.

* To help balance, provide some hands-on play after screen time so your child can reset her/his visual experience. This can be done with regular toys, interesting objects such as measuring spoons/cups, coloring, play dough, or playing outside in the grass or sandbox.

Limits and connection

* My biggest concern from an Aware Parenting perspective is if it’s used long term as an emotional control habit (to try to fix or avoid big feelings) and if it prevents connection.

* You may find your family using screens more now. You may also find you need to keep some limits. It’s okay if your child has some feelings about that. S/he will be able to process this best by getting those feelings out with your loving attention and presence. You don’t have to fix it.

* If your child is trying to understand/process what’s going on (pandemic), and if screens are a ‘normal’ part of your culture and access, then it’s an inherent part of the picture. We can’t leave it out. Go ahead and explain how screens are helping us stay connected and obtain the things we need. And then model balancing screens with other things that are important to you–being active, going outisde, reading, etc. Help them learn how to balance.

* Or, if you need to navigate new limits as they see you on the computer so much (and not playing with them, and not letting them be on the computer so much), they might need to process that with a good cry in your loving presence.

* If/when there is screen time, do some of it together so it’s not always about 1 person becoming absorbed. This way you can relate and have conversation.

Even without a pandemic…

Technology is and will be a huge part of our younger generations’ lives. I believe that what we need in the end is not total avoidance, but strategies for healthy usage, how to break away from it (balance), and EMF protection. …along with respecting brain and visual development in 0 – 2.

If screens are a part of your lifestyle and culture, knowing how to navigate their magnetic pull will be a far more useful and relevant skill than total avoidance.

Image flickr Thom Cochrane