1. Digital Quarantine
Consider limiting your children’s cell phones and tablets until their schoolwork is done, so that it can receive their undivided attention. It may not be an option for everybody, but ideally, try to give your kids a dedicated device such as a school laptop for maximum online learning.
2. Make Space for Learning
Your children will achieve their best work in a quiet, comfortable, and dedicated space devoted to learning. Ideally, this will be a different set-up than where they normally play games or watch television.
3. Monitor the Computer Monitor
In this new learning milieu, you can help by monitoring your children’s levels of interest and engagement in adapting to their new schedule and at-home materials. The simplest way to do this? Observation. Look at your child’s eyes to see if they’re following along with the screen. Check if they’re taking notes or zoning out. Ask questions at the end of a lesson. If you find that your child is not engaging with the lessons, don’t be afraid to contact the school district or teachers to better explore the issue. Sometimes, easily remedied technical problems such as bad audio, poor connection, or an unhelpful camera angle can make all the difference.
4. Digital Recess
Make sure that your children take plenty of breaks in order to get physical activity and time away from screens. Set alarms similar to those they would encounter at school and encourage them to get up, get some fresh air, go for a walk or bike ride, or have a snack so that they are not sedentary for the entire day.
In-person interaction is ideal for kids, but until it’s safe for them to return to school, encourage your children to video chat or text message rather than simply scrolling through social media. Sit your children down for face-to-face conversations about screen time. In order to give them agency, discuss how much time they think is reasonable to spend online and make a “contract,” committing to goals for on-screen vs. off-screen hours.
6. Keep it Old School
Overuse of screen time can have adverse impacts on young brains, so it’s essential in these special circumstances to be extra careful when it comes to the littlest ones. As much as possible, parents should encourage print and book reading. If available, request textbooks from your child’s school along with other print materials in order to offset the amount of online learning they will be doing. Stimulate self-expression by having discussions with your children about what they are doing, and also encourage creative writing and imaginative story telling.
7. We’re All in This Together
Remember that you’re not alone in this journey. Check in with other parents to see what they’ve found effective or to ask if they need help. Share your concerns and useful hints. If you need contact information for other parents or resources, reach out to the PAC or your child’s school. It is important that we all work together as a community for the good of our children and families.
8. Plan Your Work & Work Your Plan
Good planning can relieve stress for both children and parents. Check in with your kids about their plans and help them develop a written schedule not only for the day, but for the week as a whole. Help them prioritize and learn to create goals, tasks, and deadlines, just like adults do when they go to work. Tasks that may not have been difficult for them while attending school in person can become more challenging when learning from home, so it’s important to reinforce boundaries and offer incentives for healthy behaviors. To avoid disruption, some after-school activities may be offered via online video apps, Facetime, or Skype.
9. This Ain’t No Vacation
Even though staying home from school might feel like a holiday, remind your kids that they’re not on vacation. Assignments, grades, requirements, and tests aren’t going away just because classes have moved online.
10. Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Plan off-screen activities for the whole family. Between school and work obligations, it’s rare for parents and children to have this much time together, so turn it into an opportunity for bonding. Write predictions for a TV show that the whole family watches. Organize a tournament, family card games, charades, or chess, or get outside for a hike or walk together after school. Without a doubt, this is a challenging time for parents, teachers, and children alike. Studies show that screen time can have both positive and adverse impacts on kids, and the shift to online education will only increase your child’s time with their devices.