Imagine how today would have been like for you if there was no circuit breaker.
You might be rushing off to a fitness class after work or picking up your children from school. You might have arranged to meet up with your friends at a café or have invited your extended family to your home for dinner.
Now think about what you would actually do today. You would likely have completed an online workout you found off YouTube. You could have planned a Netflix party with friends and binge on that new show. Or, you probably would have face-timed grandpa and grandma so that they could talk to your children.
Noticed any difference?
COVID-19 has caused our screen time to spike in the last few months, with circuit breaker measures forcing everyone to work from home and moving our social interactions with colleagues, classmates, and friends online. Armed with digital devices and the internet, we are all determined to maintain some sort of normalcy in our lives. Currently, about 3 billion people are in lockdown around the world — and almost 90% of the student population cut off from school.
It is essential that we manage our screen time properly, now more than ever, in order to avoid negative side effects of excessive screen time. Here are 4 tips recommended by Active Health Coach, Mason Tan:
1) Identify “Good” vs “Bad” screen time
The first step to managing screen time is separating the “good” from the “bad”. Before using a device, ask yourself these questions: Is the purpose of this screen time positive? Is it productive and of value to you?
An example of “good” screen time is face-timing friends and family. It makes you feel good and a little less lonely, which is positive! Another example is putting in a little more time to perfect a work report due the next day. This is productive and valuable as you are putting effort into your job and it will leave a good impression on your bosses.
Examples of “bad” screen time include scrolling through social media and comparing another person’s life to yours based on what they post, being glued to news updates that might induce anxiety or spending long hours watching online videos passively which may keep you up way past bedtime. These screen time activities have no positive purpose. Neither is it productive or adding value to your life.
However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to enjoy using social media forever! Moderation is key, which brings me to the next step.
2) Adjust your daily routine
While staying home, how many times have you turned to your phone or computer for hours of mindless entertainment when you have free time? Or worked a little longer than usual on something that could have been completed the next day?
Having a schedule filled with activities can help to prevent excessive time facing screens.
- Learn to leave the office
Dedicate a space in your home as your “office” and limit work to that space only. Try not to bring your laptop or work phone outside of that space. This way, you are setting boundaries and can check out of work completely at the end of the day. Try to keep your work from home timings the same as your conventional working hours too
- Plan exercise AFTER work hours
Making it a habit to have a physical activity after work or school hours gives you something to do to unwind besides using your phone. Visit Get Active TV or ActiveSG Circle for a wide range of exercise videos suitable for all ages!
- Dedicate a timeslot for entertainment
You can allocate an hour or two in the day to use phones, computers or the TV for entertainment.
- Regular sleep time
Sticking to a certain bedtime can help remind yourself to wrap up your screen time to go to sleep. Do remember to stop using devices at least 2 hours before bedtime so that your sleep is not affected by blue light.
3) Try out screen-free alternatives
Believe it or not, there are other non-digital activities you can do to entertain yourself! Here are some suggestions:
- Reading paperback books or listening to audio books
- Baking / cooking
- Drawing / painting
- Play board or card games with family
- Voice-calling friends or family for a chat
- Skipping Rope
- Balancing and strength exercises
4) Schedule movement breaks
Take 5 minutes walking breaks away from your desk every hour. It gives your eyes some rest from the screen and also helps you to feel less fatigue and more productive throughout the day. You can also carry out some simple stretches too!
Rethinking screen time for children
Parents may worry that their children are spending too much time online while staying home. But with the internet becoming an important tool for learning, entertainment and social interaction during this time, children stand to gain more by spending time in the digital space. Parents should focus on readjusting screen time rules for children to accommodate these unique circumstances.
- Monitor what your children are doing online
Research has shown it is not the time spent online but the content that children encounter which have direct adverse effects. Be aware of your children’s online friends, know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what websites they are visiting etc.
Staying in touch with friends
Allow your children to have time to play online and communicate with their friends. Studies have shown that digital technology does help children in their social relationships. Through online games and social media, it can help them feel connected and strengthen their friendships. It can also help to soothe loneliness or anxieties they may have while staying home.
- Increase physical activity even while online
Screen time has been blamed for physical inactivity and contributing to childhood obesity. However, active video games and online exercise classes can offer new and creative ways to get children moving and staying healthy.
- Use screen time to bond with your children
Playing or watching something with your children encourages social interaction and bonding. You can also take this chance to teach sportsmanship to young children through online gaming as well.
- Schedule blocks of screen-free times
Ensure that there are still screen-free times in your children’s day. Plan non-digital family time by playing a board game or baking together. Disallow using devices during family mealtimes and in children’s bedrooms especially leading up to their bedtime.
With these changes in place, you can help your children manage their screen time better. Overall, your family can have more family time, healthier eating habits and better sleep.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes in our daily lives. Being aware of the changes and how they affect us, such as increased screen time, is important so that we can manage our daily routines and stay healthy not only for ourselves, but for our family as well! Visit ActiveSG Circle for more tips on wellness, nutrition and fitness.