Post-quarantine rules reset

Lynn JataniaThere are still a lot of unknowns about COVID-19, but for now at least, our province has started to open up a bit. Parks and beaches are open, most stores and malls are opening, and we’re even able to get haircuts again.

Here at home, we’re trying to have a very slow “return to normal.” My husband and I are still working from home, and of course the kids are finishing their school year at home as well. I still wear a mask when I do our weekly grocery shopping, and although I’ve done a few other errands as well in recent weeks – I couldn’t stay away from the garden centre! – we’re still trying to limit our outside exposure to only those places we absolutely have to visit.

But even so, it seems like strict quarantine may be coming to an end. We’ve seen groups of kids hanging out at the park and local corner store, so it’s only a matter of time before one of our kids gets an invite. We’ve already expanded our “bubble” to include a few family members who live in town.

So now that we’re branching out and maybe resuming a more normal routine – what does that mean for screen time?

I have to admit that during the lockdown, we were pretty open about screen use around here. My husband and I were still putting in regular work days; thankfully, our teenagers are old enough that they did not need constant supervision. While we were working, they started their days with school work, which already meant two to three hours of screen time.

After school, we left it to them to keep themselves busy – and that mostly meant screens. Our older two often went for a daily walk or bike ride, and our youngest started her own program of creating one painting per day. They sometimes read books, especially in the early morning or after dinner.

But their afternoons, for the large part, were just one big festival of screen time, and we weren’t enforcing any real limitations. It helped them keep in touch with friends, and it filled their days while we were working. They played video games online, watched YouTube videos or giggled over Instagram memes for hours in a row.

But what now?

I’m wondering how we can “dial back” to the days before lockdown. Do we go back to the old rules? Will there be a lot of resistance to that? Do we leave it to them to self-monitor? Does it make a difference for our youngest (turning 13 in a couple of weeks) versus our oldest (17)? The oldest will starting university soon, and will need to balance screens, life and schoolwork without our supervision.

School is finishing soon and we’ve always had established rules for Summer Screens, so perhaps the end of June will be the best time to make the transition to a more defined structure. We’ve already asked them each to think of at least one or two major screen-free projects to work on around the house in July and August – something like training towards a physical goal, or completing a large reorganization/cleaning project, or learning a new skill like a new language. We’ve also asked them to come up with a list of fun day trips they’d like to take, since our major travel plans are all cancelled. (We had hoped for our older two to find some volunteer work, but we’re not sure that will be possible this year.)

Hopefully that will be enough to help them learn to structure their own days, along with returning to our old screen guidelines – no more than three hours per day, no more than one hour at a time. But I’m also planning on giving it some thought, and seeing if I can come up with any fresh ideas to help them balance media consumption with other activities.

What are you doing to reduce screens now that quarantine is ending? Do you think you can go back to the way things were? Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas or suggestions!

Here are some MediaSmarts resources to help give you some ideas on managing screen time:

If you have a teen that’s about to take a big step towards independence, check out our youth guide On the Loose for tips on how to manage screen time, online shopping, online relationships and other challenges away from adult supervision.