The amount of time our kids are sitting in front of a screen has increased exponentially since the pandemic hit.

Many kids are getting a portion of their education, and some all of their education online.
You add to that the typical gaming and socializing kids do online, that’s a lot of screen time.

In this segment of Raising North Dakota, Alysia Huck shares some insight from a local mom and doctor.

“I was worried about how much time they were getting at first because they work on it an awful lot,” says Bismarck mom, Retha Mattern.

Retha Mattern is talking about how much time her kids spend in front of a screen for distance learning- and she isn’t alone.
There have been rumblings of concern among parent groups across the nation over the amount of screen time our kids are getting these days.

“You can definitely tell that it impacts behavior for sure,” Mattern shares. “Trying to get an 8-year-old away from her table after two hours of watching JoJo videos or something is just a little ridiculous, but we also know she really needs the break because she’s acting that way.”

Local pediatrician Dr. Stephen McDonough says the disruption in children’s routines has had a tremendous impact on children’s physical and mental health.

“I’ve seen a number just in my own practice that have had really serious deterioration of mental health,” says Dr. Stephen McDonough, pediatrician, Independent Doctors. “We’ve had to work hard to assist them and families to get through this.”

So how do we help our children get through these unprecedented times?

Dr. McDonough explains, “You have to have the proper balance. If you spend too much time on distance learning and then you’re on the gaming after and not exercising, that’s not a good recipe for good health.”

McDonough says not only does physical activity improve overall physical health, but it also releases endorphorphines that help to minimize anxiety and stress.
Mattern says she’s made daily exercise and activity a priority for her family.

Mattern says, “Normally they get along really well, so when they start picking on each other we know that you need some fresh air, you need some activity.”

When it comes to finding the right balance, Dr. McDonough recommends 20-30 minutes of screen time and then an activity break for elementary-aged kids, and for older kids, use the 20-20-20 approach, which means for every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Ultimately, the right approach depends on the child.
And finding the right approach is not always easy.

“It’s hard, it’s hard on us as parents and I’m sure it’s even harder on them as teachers trying to set everything up and having to worry about how much time the kid is sitting in front of a screen while doing this,” says Mattern. “I think it’s my job as a parent is to make sure the schoolwork is done in balance with everything else when it comes to the screen time “

Dr. McDonough says, “Parents need to be flexible and positive and hopefully we can get through the next 6 months, and hopefully this will be beyond us then.”

When it comes to how much screen time to allow outside of school, Dr. McDonough does not recommend eliminating it, but to make it shorter increments.

And he stresses the importance of mixing it in with plenty of physical activity in order to help your child’s overall health.