Despite the fact many of us are still sheltering in place, we are busier than ever. Technology has allowed us to work from home and has allowed our kids to attend school from home, but all this screen time has to be bad for us, right? In addition to worrying about keeping our families safe from the pandemic we should also be worried about all the time we are spending in front of screens, too. Take heart – it turns out that quality is far more important than quantity when it comes to screens, and I know we could all use that little bit of good news right now.

These days 85% of parents say they are worried about how much time their kids are spending on screens, and more than half are worried their kids will be addicted to screens by the time the pandemic ends and life goes back to normal.

To be sure, screen time has been shown to have a detrimental effect on children, especially the younger ones. Children under the age of two who spend at least one hour a day on screens have been shown to have developmental delays in speech as well as cognitive and motor delays. 

Kids between two and six who use screens frequently have been shown to develop emotional problems and can also have higher instances of family dysfunction.

But all this is a chicken and egg scenario, and new research is showing that quality may be more important than quantity when it comes to screen time.

Children who have family dysfunction are probably more likely to be exposed to television as a babysitter or are likely to use it as an escape. It’s not necessarily that television causes family dysfunction, and it’s more likely that excessive screen time is a symptom of family dysfunction.

Higher quality screen time can be beneficial, especially right now. When screens are used to keep in contact with distant family members or friends – or even socially distant family members or friends – there is usually a positive effect of building those bonds that are so important in our lives.

Similarly, when screens are used together as a family or for educational purposes kids can get something positive out of the experience. When families watch television and movies together and discuss them, it becomes a family bonding experience. When kids attend a Zoom meeting with their classmates and learn new materials or even just socialize, it becomes an enrichment.

This should come as quite a relief to parents who are concerned about the effects this pandemic will have on their children. While this is certainly not ideal, it is unlikely to be an irreversible detrimental experience to our children.

In order to give kids the best chance at getting through this pandemic, ensure the screen time they participate in is majority high-quality. Some mindless television is certainly ok, but the majority of screen time should be related to learning, connecting with others, or otherwise actively participating in something.

Learn more about why we should reevaluate screen time for kids below.