Healthy screen time habits for kids learning online

How many hours do online classes take up a day?

The number of hours your child will need to spend studying online will depend on several factors, including your child’s age, what curriculum they are following and what online school they are registered with. 

Most online schools offer a certain amount of flexibility and ample opportunity to take breaks, make sure your child uses these to break away from the screen, even if it’s only for a few minutes between classes.

Does online learning count as screen time?

Too much screen time can cause problems for children when it comes to sleep, attention span and energy levels. However, screen time can also be a positive influence, especially when it’s active and educational. When thinking about your child’s screen time, it’s not all equal. An app that works as an educational tool is not the same as a video game.

Remember to help your child to take breaks between subjects and that off-screen time can be used to practice the work being learned while on screen. Adding in physical activity and movement throughout the day is helpful, but each family might want to work that into their daily routines in their own way.

Routines and schedules can also help kids and families to better understand when is a good time to be on screens, working, and when is a good time to play and relax.

Healthy screen time by age

In general, screen time before 18 months of age should be limited to short video chats along with an adult, and even these should happen only on the rare occasion.

Between 18 and 24 months screen time should be limited to watching educational programming with a parent or caregiver.

For children 2-5 years of age, non-educational screen time should be limited to about 30 - 60 minutes a day, with supervision.

For ages 6 years and older, healthy habits need to be encouraged and activities that include screens should be monitored. It is important to note that consistent limits are key to developing balanced healthy habits.

How to reduce screen time while studying online all day?

Take regular and active breaks

Trying to cram your studying into as many hours as possible is not an effective way of retaining information. Our brains (and bodies) need breaks so make sure you take regular breaks whilst studying. We recommend researching the Pomodoro Studying Technique. This technique involves using a timer to break your study sessions into intervals of 25 - 45 minutes each, separated by short breaks. It is important to make these breaks active or, at the very least, to take them away from a screen. 

Make the switch to hard-copy studying

You can help your child to reduce their screen time by making a few changes so they aren’t looking at a screen all day, including using physical copies of texts and textbooks, taking notes with a pen and paper, and printing out study material.

Schedule screen-free study time

Schedule a period of time for screen-free study into your child’s timetable. Your child can prepare their study material in advance to make sure that they won’t always need their laptop or phone to study. Encourage your child to participate in activities like summarising notes or completing practice worksheets. 

Separate your working and sleeping space

While this isn’t possible for everyone, if you are able to set your child up to study in a different place from where they sleep, this will help to prevent your child from being on a screen right before bed or studying too late at night when they should be winding down to go to sleep.

Don’t study in bed

While it is super tempting for your child to study in bed, it does mean they are unlikely to take active breaks or limit their screen time.

It can also be hard for them to distinguish between when they should be working, studying or taking breaks, since they are always in the same place!

Phone a friend

Encourage your child to stay in contact with their friends and to spend time with them. This will help them to stay connected.

Arrange study groups with other families in your area that are also online schooling or homeschooling. Studying or working through homework together is a great way for your child to keep socialising with their friends while reducing the time they spend on a screen.

Do regular exercise

Just 30 minutes of exercise every day not only takes your child away from a screen but also improves your child’s physical and mental health, and helps them focus and concentrate better. 

Take a walk around your neighbourhood with your family or encourage your child to join a sports club. Use this as an opportunity to lay the foundation for your child to develop a lifelong habit of regular healthy exercise.

Activities that can entice your child away from the screen

If you search the internet for activities to minamise screentime, you will be confronted with hundreds, if not thousands, of different ideas. Here is a list of just a few of them to get you started.

  • Make paper airplanes out of colored paper.
  • Cut out paper dolls and accessories from newspapers.
  • Create doll houses and furniture out of pieces of felt.
  • Build skyscrapers out of Lego.
  • Use large cardboard boxes to create kid-sized houses that they can decorate.
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood with the dog(s) or a friend.
  • Play card games like Uno, Hearts or Rummy.
  • Bring out the board games.
  • Browse your local library for a good book and read it!
  • Look through photo albums or school memorabilia.
  • Cook dinner together or bake cookies.
  • Sing karaoke or have a dance party.
  • Listen to a book or CD together as a family every night.
  • Go bowling.
  • Head to the pool for a game of Marco Polo.
  • Get messy with a game of paintball.
  • Try rock climbing.
  • Teach your dog a new trick.
  • Collect towels and blankets for the animal shelter.
  • Create a maze for your hamster.
  • Make a no-sew pet bed for your cat.
  • Write letters to Grandma and Grandpa. 
  • Wash windows together or spring clean a room in the house.
  • Act out a favourite book.
  • Make crayon-scrap candles. 
  • Make a fort. 
  • Play hide-and-seek.
  • Learn some magic tricks.
  • Rummage through the cupboards for an impromptu fashion show.
  • Put on a puppet show.
  • Take a family bike ride.
  • Make your own puzzles or build a giant puzzle.
  • Plant a small garden – indoors or outdoors.
  • Take photographs and make memories to keep.
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