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New UW Health study suggests better ways to use screens to minimize negative effects on kids

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 18:39:52-05

ELM GROVE — From virtual school to online playdates, parents are maximizing screen time like never before for children. A new study out of UW Health finds the best ways to use screens for kids and minimize their negative effects.

Elm Grove mother of three, Sunny Duff, says before the pandemic her children were not allowed computers in their room and never behind closed doors.

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Virtual school underway at the Duff Family home in Elm Grove.

“When they were all home during the pandemic, the older two definitely needed quiet because they were doing classroom Zoom with their teachers and their classmates and it needed to be quiet. So then they were allowed to have their Chromebooks in their rooms,” said Duff.

Now Duff says there are times when her older children go from virtual school to Facetiming their friends. She isn’t alone. According to UW Health’s Dr. Megan Moreno, an adolescent medicine physician and vice chair of digital health says screen time for children has doubled in many families since the pandemic has started. And because what kids are using the screens for it means parents should not just shut them off.

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“For older kids, if they have been online all day, but it's been homework and school and they haven't connected to any friends. They might need that device to be able to have some of that social connection that we know is a really important part of adolescent development,” said Moreno.

Her new study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests families create a media use plan. That includes stopping phones an hour before bedtime and having an area of the home that is media free.

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Elm Grove mother captures how her daughter is learning at home during the pandemic.

“What we found is it's more about just having that ability to connect to parents and talk about what was important to them, [that] helped adolescences make choices about what media they wanted to use and why,” said Moreno

For the Duffs they created a media-free time every day right before dinner. Sunny says their kids sometimes are better at sticking with it than her and her husband.

“We try to do it with them, to spend time as a family together,” said Duff.

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Sunny Duff captures her daughter using a computer tablet during the pandemic.

You can create your own Family Media Plan with the help of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The interactive tool makes suggestions and helps your family come up with a screen plan that is age-appropriate.

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