A version of this letter was published on TODAY Voices at Increased screen time during circuit breaker bad for kids? Use chance to learn, bond.
Since circuit breaker measures started , most school-going children have been doing home-based learning.  Parents who are aware of the potential pitfalls of excessive screen usage might be at a loss now as to how to set limits on their kids’ screen time when home-based learning will be exposing them to more screen time than usual. 
As a parent with a school-going child, I understand these concerns.
First, it is important for parents not to act from a place of guilt. While parents should not just allow digital devices to keep our kids occupied and quiet, our best efforts to not resort to digital nannies may not always be enough—and that is okay.
Guilt can make us feel like we are lousy parents, which may lead to either over-compensating or giving up in trying to do better. Parents should give themselves credit as they navigate different stresses during this time of adjustments.
Secondly, parents need to bear in mind that not all screen time is bad. There is a difference between mindless entertainment from videos and interactive games or basic coding applications.
If our children ask for our mobile phones, we can teach them how to use the camera. Assign older kids fun projects of taking videos or photos of, say, their ten favourite toys or of themselves explaining what they like about their favourite shows.
Thirdly, parents can use digital devices for bonding opportunities. Children under ten can find camera filters to be amusing. Spend time with them during work breaks to take funny wefies—not only does this engage them, it also builds memories for the whole family.
Console dance or exercise games can help our kids to get active and allow us some time to finish up a work task while they are at them.
Finally, since there is increased screen time during the circuit breaker period, it is important to create a daily routine for them to engage in non-digital activities indoors. For example, arts and crafts projects, water play in an inflatable pool, playing with kinetic sand, magnetic tiles, train sets, or building blocks. This can also allow the whole family to have non-screen time together and bond at the same time.
Parents can explore putting their kids in charge of household responsibilities that are appropriate to their age. A four-year-old can be given a flat wiping mop to clean the floor, an eight-year-old can be put in charge of making simple lunches once a week, and a teenager can be tasked with menu planning and online grocery shopping within a budget.
To encourage children to take ownership over these tasks, parents should be eager to affirm their efforts, rather than insist on perfection.
With these practices in place, our kids’ increased screen time does not have to cause undue stress and anxiety, but can provide opportunities for learning and bonding instead.
Chong Ee Jay
Digital Literacy & Family Life Educator
Team Lead, FamChamps
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