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Yay or Nay: Is It Okay To Relax Screen Time Restrictions For Kids During Circuit Breaker?

It’s official – Singapore’s circuit breaker has been extended, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to an extension of screen time for the little ones.

The big question about screen time this circuit breaker.

Classes have migrated online, workouts are being screened via Instagram TV and YouTube, extra-curricular learning can be done through a wide range of apps (Duolingo, anybody?). Technology has made Circuit Breaker an easier one for us all. Pivoting online has been one of the best ways for our children to keep up to date with their schoolwork and connect with their friends despite being apart.

Yet, the big question remains: are we parents relaxing our rules around screen time a little too much during this time? A year ago in 2019, reports have found that 12 year old children in Singapore spend about 6.5 hours on screen time a day. Now that Home-Based Learning (HBL) has been introduced and almost all forms of entertainment and education have pivoted online, one can only imagine the tenfold increase in screen time. We’ve had to make a 180-degree turn on our stance on screen time and accommodate to the long hours our children have to spend on the screen for classes. Now, we ask ourselves, what’s the right balance?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, however, there are irreversible consequences and repercussions as a result of prolonged screen time such as device dependency and myopia.

Sometimes, the screen is necessary.

From education to entertainment, the screen’s got them all. And truth be told, it’s difficult to survive without it in the 21st Century. So while screen time is necessary for us all for different purposes and aspects, it needs to be managed in healthy doses. With the circuit breaker cutting through our children’s mid-year holidays in Singapore, it’ll be tempting to extend a few hours of screen time for our little ones to enjoy, unwind, and keep them occupied. While you relax a few screen time rules to accommodate to your child’s HBL or online school holiday activities, it’s important to also lace in device-free activities to keep your little ones off the screen when you can. This creates a healthy habit of taking a break from the screens occasionally so that your little ones don’t become heavily dependent on their devices.

Here are 3 steps you can take to manage screen time this circuit breaker:

1. Create screen time limits

Once the school holidays kick in to full force and HBL has been completed for the semester, try to limit screen time to a healthy amount. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), children of the following ages should be limited to the corresponding screen time allowances:

  • 0-2 year olds: no screen time at all
  • 2-5 year olds: 1 hour of screen time a day
  • 5 and above: A little more screen time can be introduced, but moderately. No more than a few hours of screen time a day.

2. Remind them to take device breaks

If your child does need to use their devices for any reason, remind them to take a break from the screens every 30 minutes. Resting their eyes for 2 minutes for every half hour on the screen can help relax their eyes and prevent vision conditions like myopia from progressing.

3. Engage in creative device-free play

Even though we have to minimize going outdoors for the time being, that doesn’t mean we can’t bring that outdoor fun indoors! There are a great number of ways to get creative indoors and keep our children occupied. From arts and crafts, to baking, and even an indoor obstacle course – you can bring the fun anywhere you go, even when you’re just at home. This could even make for great family bonding time where you play around with your little ones just like when you were kids yourselves!

Yes to screen time, but in moderation.

There’s no need to explain how much technology has helped us during this Circuit Breaker. For our children especially, the HBL measures put in place that were facilitated by technology have greatly assisted their learning. Once the school work’s completed, let’s make it a point to switch those screens off and spend some quality time with our children away from the screens as well.

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