Here at GattiHR, our team is fortunate to be able to work remotely and to stay in touch through video, phone calls and chat. Our calls and check ins are keeping us on track and in sync as a team. We are also noticing that our screen time both collectively and individually is occurring at a higher rate than ever. On top of this, we’re noticing that our kids are getting screen time at an unprecedented level. Clearly, screen time, which was once a parenting issue, is now a much larger quandary. Instead of asking how much is too much, we sought to see how much more are we really doing. And what (if anything) can we do about it?
In 2016, the Brookings Institute conducted a study about screen time and found that the average American screen time increased from 21 to 24 hours per week from 2003 to 2016. While pursuing active leisure activities such as playing a sport decreased.
And in September 2019, Small Business Trend found Americans are using internet on any kind of screen for 6 hours and 31 minutes a day on average. Screens have become an increasingly bigger part of our lives over the last few years, and the debate about their value all came to a halt when social distancing became our priority.
Italy was the first western country to create a lock down to flatten the curve of Coronavirus. Qustodio, the leading platform for digital safety and wellbeing, published a report based on data from families in Italy. They found that from February 20, 2020 (when the first Coronavirus case was reported) to March 5, 2020 (when the schools and Universities closed), . Suddenly, kids and adults alike are doing all their socializing via screens.
The Good News and what We can All Do Now
While excessive screen time has been linked with negative mental and physical effects, it appears to be providing valuable social engagement during this period of heightened isolation. The good news is studies show that the negative effects of screens for children at least are often off-set by parental engagement and family relationships.
This means there are a few things we can do for our kids and ourselves alike:
Connecting – One of the most common suggestions is to use screen time for connecting. Many people are finding that they know their friends better and are “seeing” them more often, thanks to FaceTime and other video conferencing options. Making use of screen time to build and maintain genuine friendships helps us stay emotionally balanced.
Active Engagement – It’s easy to turn on Netflix and chill out and there’s nothing wrong with that sometimes it’s even rejuvenating. However, there is also an abundance of educational material for kids and adults alike. By using screen time to take a class, practice a foreign language or learn an instrument or art skill our brains can engage and grow.
Physical Activity – Staying home for many of us means we no longer have access to the gyms, exercise classes and outdoor spaces that were part of our daily lives. Fortunately, an abundance of apps, videos and other online resources have popped up for at home workouts. It’s often more rewarding when screen time helps us move, sleep better, and relax more deeply.