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How to manage kids’ screen time when you’re sheltered in place

As more kids finish the school year online and connect with friends and relatives on devices, screen time is likely to go up. Here’s how you can manage it.

ARLINGTON, Texas — With schools, parks, libraries and businesses closed and families told to stay in their homes, parents need to monitor more closely the time kids spend in front of the TV or on devices, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The warning comes as communities shelter in place and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Kids average about seven hours of screen time per day under normal circumstances, the AAP said. 

Lauren Stockard of "Fort Worth Moms" says these are far from normal times.

“Because screen time is a necessity,” Stockard said. “Everyone’s doing online learning and we’re using technology to keep in touch with our family and friends.”

To help parents manage screen time, the AAP has a screen time calculator on its website, which automatically adjusts when you input how much sleep, school time and exercise you need per day.

The website also features a plan that tells kids where and when they have permission to use their devices. 

Stockard said it’s important to keep to the schedule, but also monitor the content. For example, instead of binging shows, look for content that is educational or encourages kids to be active. 

"We watch shows like GoNoodle on YouTube, which encourages doing jumping jacks or silly dance moves,” Stockard said.

Older kids and teens can take advantage of streaming workouts available for free from several apps and gyms.

Another thing to keep in mind, is it’s normal for screen time to go up during the coronavirus outbreak. It’s important for parents not to feel guilty, but to do their best to manage it, Stockard said.

“Give yourself a lot of grace in this time,” Stockard said. “This is not normal and so we need to do what we need to do to get by, and every family is different. Just find what’s best for your family.”

Click here to read more about screen time from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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