Increased screen time this fall and winter doesn’t need to be a bad thing

Having a child, or even yourself, using a smartphone wisely can be just as crucial as knowing...
Having a child, or even yourself, using a smartphone wisely can be just as crucial as knowing when to put it down.(WBAY Staff)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 12:06 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As the temperatures begin to drop, doctors recognize that our screen time will likely rise. That doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing.

“Four hours of really high quality screen time maybe watching a movie as a family, maybe playing a game with siblings, that’s probably a lot more meaningful in a positive way than a half hour just scrolling looking at content that’s going to make you feel bad about yourself,” Dr. Megan Moreno, head of U.W. Health Social Media and Adolescent Health Research team, shared.

However, there can be physical repercussions if you increase your screen time usage too much, like obesity or disrupting sleep habits.

“Increased screen time can lead to lots of negative effects,” Dr. Abby Smolcich, a pediatrician with ThedaCare, said. “For younger children, it can hinder language, cognitive and social development. Not only developmentally can they suffer but kids can also find things that are inappropriate, like things that we don’t necessarily want our kids to be watching.”

Doing a puzzle, coloring, or reading together can be an advantage rather than a challenge in colder weather. For a child, or even yourself, using a smartphone wisely can be just as crucial as knowing when to put it down.

“I also think it’s really important to be self-forgiving this winter,” Dr. Moreno added. “We all had too much screen time and too much alone time and too much sedentary time last winter. I don’t think it’s worth beating ourselves up and feeling like we need to dramatically change this winter. I think this is a time to get reconnected to the people we care about and take good care of ourselves.”

“Screen time is unavoidable, especially during the pandemic,” Dr. Smolcich recognized. “With e-learning and online learning. But some ways that parents can make sure that kids are doing things safely is to always check what your kids are watching, set parental controls or parental locks on all the screens at home. Ideally, an hour to two hours or less a day outside of work and school.”

Doctors recommend going for walks and getting exercise even in the cold weather to break up your screen time. Plus, perhaps reframing your approach to technology over the next few months.

“I think that the more we can use technology together to play games, to learn from, to watch movies or shows together, and then use those experiences to help have conversations over dinner or when we are talking as families or with our friends,” Dr. Moreno emphasized.

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