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Kids are spending more time looking at screens during the pandemic

More time at home, mixed with the necessity of online learning during the pandemic means kids are spending more time on devices. Doctors say it's not all bad.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The American Academy of Pediatrics said kids are likely spending more time on devices now more than ever because of the pandemic.

More time at home, a lot of schools turning online and fewer opportunities to go out and mingle contributes to the increase in screen time across the board.

But, doctors like Allison Elledge, a pediatric psychologist at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, say not to sweat.

"We've been home a lot more, parents have been working from home while also providing child care and so I think some out of necessity, some out of boredom, some out of just being home more," Elledge said. "It's really hard, and realizing that it's okay if you let a few things go as long as you're kind of constantly thinking about striving to do what you know is best for your kiddo."

Rather, make sure and monitor what your child is doing on the device. Not all screen time is created equal. Educational materials and videos encouraging movement are better than passive TV shows, but it all comes with risks.

"Introducing that into your home and using that as a regular source of entertainment for your kids really is a choice that could have repercussions that mean other things don't become as fun," Elledge advised. "Kids learn through play, so the younger they are and the more they use a screen, the less they are going to learn."

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The AAP has a screen time calculator on its website that helps parents set boundaries on where and when kids can and cannot use devices, which can help provide structure in a time of uncertainty.

Elledge also recommended going into the setting on your child's device and setting time restrictions on apps.

Long-term exposure to increased screen time has a proven link to obesity, sleep troubles and academic performance for some ages.

RELATED: Parents urged to limit screen time to keep kids healthy

Dr. Elledge explained parents can always remedy the habits created during the pandemic when things are more normal and screen time is no longer a necessity.

"That may be tough, but we can do it," Elledge encouraged.

She wanted to remind parents we are in unprecedented and to cut themselves some slack. 

Normally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Babies aged 0 to 18 months should have no screen time, other than occasional video calls with family.
  • Toddlers aged 2 to 5 years old should have one hour of screen time a day.
  • Older children should have no more than two hours with limits and monitoring.

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