The online dilemma
Following on from Children’s Mental Health Week – and increasing reports citing the profound impact of COVID-19 on children’s wellbeing – we wanted to share some strategies to help families take care of their emotional needs this month.
One of the biggest concerns we’re hearing from parents is the increased amount of screen time in our children’s lives. It’s not just schooling – whether they’re catching up with friends or watching TV while we juggle home and work, the pandemic has forced us all online, for longer than ever before.
Studies show that high levels of screen time (over eight hours a day) can increase the risk to mental health. And we all know that using screens late into the evening can disrupt sleep. Combine this with the added isolation of lockdown and the uncertainty around school closures, and it’s understandable that one in six children aged between five and 16 is now thought to have a mental health disorder.
So how can we help?
With online schooling and social distancing here to stay (at least for now) here are our top tips to help minimise the impact of screen time, and boost children’s overall wellbeing:
1. Breathe and blink: When children become absorbed in something, their breathing becomes shallower, creating tension all through the body. They also blink less often – so try to remind them to shift their attention regularly and give their eyes (and brain) a mini-rest.
2. Refocus and reset: It’s important to look away from the screen at regular intervals, at different points in the distance, so that eyes aren’t stuck at one focal length.
3. Practice palming: This simple technique involves placing palms over closed eyelids and thinking about something else for a few moments. It’s a quick and easy way to unwind in the evening, or break up days in front of the computer.
3. Head Outside: This won’t just help reduce the impact of screen time; spending an hour or two outdoors every day is critical to boosting overall wellbeing.
4. Keep to a routine: A tip we always return to, but now it really is more important than ever to replace school structures with a routine at home – plus it will help keep screen time in check too.
5. Make time to talk: It can be hard to get children to open up – particularly teenagers – so try just doing something positive together, like baking or walking. You may find this gives your child the space they need to share.
6. And remember: This won’t last forever. So share plenty of reassurance. And be forgiving, of yourself and others.