Covid 19 has shifted every aspect of our lives. Some have been utterly devastating. Some shifting has been beautiful. The news provides a constant reel of death and destruction sprinkled with stories of courage and hope. It is overwhelming. And exhausting. As parents we become trapped in a loop of what do we do? How do we manage? How do we float everything? How do we protect our kids? Mental health issues and depression are brewing. And while it is not forefront news, it soon will be. It is a secondary effect of this virus. There are many secondary effects. We hear about them briefly. Read about them on social media. Depression, suicide, poverty, abuse, homelessness. These are some of the secondary effects. They are a quick mention, and then overshadowed again by covid numbers...death, testing, recovery. One secondary effect that is not being mentioned is the effect of unrestricted constant device time our children will experience.
As parents we are immensely grateful for devices during Covid 19. They have become a saving grace when it comes to connection for us and our children. We can face time family and friends. Teens can DM their friends. Chat with them through a gaming headset. This is the beautiful side of devices and connectivity. Devices can also make us feel better by providing an outlet that will allow us to escape virtually. As humans we are incredibly good at finding things to help us feel good. But we have to ask ourselves...is what we are doing helpful or healthy. Too much device time, in the midst of lockdown, may not be seen as a problem because it helps us to feel better for a little while. But there is a downside. With device time increase by 125 percent, our kids are not only connecting with friends and family. If they have access to an unrestricted device, they are probably connecting with people, or material that can be harmful. There is also an undercurrent of addiction that is being fostered when this habit is allowed to continue. It is not noticed in the middle of our crisis, but it will rear its head once we ask our kids to move forward and establish a new normal. This new normal will most certainly include returning to school. The habits that are being silently formed now, that feel good to kids now, will suddenly be ripped away. Asking a child to relinquish their device, sit still and pay attention for 7 hours a day in school after having 12 hours a day of device time is going to be met with incredible push back. This will present in the form of behavior issues, acting out, anger, sadness, frustration, bargaining and manipulation. These are recognizable signs of someone who is fighting addiction. One of the most dangerous places our kids can be is alone, in their rooms, with an unrestricted device.
It may feel too hard right now to think about our kids and their devices. The reality is our sons Fortnite marathons are allowing us to work. Our daughters constant Tik Tok scroll is allowing us to have stolen moments of peace. This is not bad or wrong. It is survival. It is trying to make it all work. It is parenting in a pandemic. There is not a handbook on how to survive a pandemic. There is not a right way to handle working from home while navigating kids, distance learning and everyones energy. What we can do is give ourselves grace. And then step into the idea that our kids do need a bit of monitoring and support in the social media/device space. Do a quick, random device check. Look at their content. Connecting with friends is considered positive device involvement. This is actually wonderful support for their mental health and coping. It should not be reflected as negative device time. Make sure there are restrictions set on their phone for time and content. If you feel it is necessary and you need the back up, do not be afraid to put an app monitoring device on their phone. Talk with them about what they are looking at. And then decide upon an appropriate time frame for device use for your families needs. The monitoring we do now will vastly decrease the addiction issues they face in months to come. It will also protect them from making ill informed decisions online that can follow them for the rest of their lives. A few minutes each week. You can do this. You are doing amazing. And you will be ok.