Online Learning and Increasing screen time in Children: How can we help?
By Dr. Suruchi Goyal Agarwal, Consultant – Paediatrics and Paediatric Endocrinology, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield
Remote learning, virtual classrooms, online learning: Whichever term we use is a new world that we as families have entered.
With schools arriving into our very homes, life has taken an unexpected twist. The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools, colleges and all types of educational institutions to shut for the safety of our children. This has given way to some amazing innovations in the form of online classes and courses.
This has of course enabled our children to continue their education from the safety of their own homes. However, another problem has slowly emerged: Screen time health
Online learning involves children sitting for long hours in from of devices: laptops, desktops, handheld devices sometimes from 8 am till 3 pm and then after to complete their assignments.
Here are a few things that can be done to keep your child healthy whilst they continue with their education
Breakfast: ‘It’s the most important meal of the day!’ time and again this statement has held true. But how many kids do this? How many get out of bed at 7:55 when the lesson starts at 8? Breakfast is the fuel to the brain after a long night of fasting. Get your child into the habit of a healthy breakfast. A complex carbohydrate, a fresh fruit, some nuts and water are a good start to the day. My children love muesli with Yoghurt and a sprinkle of nuts and seasonal fresh fruit. Idli, dosa, Upma etc make lovely breakfasts too.
Posture: No slouching isn’t allowed here! We increasingly see children with mid and lower back pain and some with shoulder pain. Posture plays an important role in concentration too. The best way to sit in front of a screen is an adjustable chair where their feet are placed flat on the floor and the height adjusted such that their eyes look slightly down at the screen. Arm rests would help too. Sitting on the sofa is not recommended due to poor lumbar support.
Eye strain: ‘Mom my eyes are gritty’, ‘Mom my eyes hurt’ are common complaints after kids have spent time in front of the screen. Lower the brightness setting of your device. Maintain a good distance between the eye and the screen. About 20 inches which is an arm’s length. In between classes ask them to get up and look away from the screen. Rubbing the palms of the hand and then placing them as a cup over the eyes help as do rolling eyes.
Hydration: It’s easy to forget drinking water whilst at home and sitting in one place. A child in Grade 5 should drink about 1.5 to 2 l/day and a child in grade 8 and above needs approx 2-2.5 litres/ day. Just water can get boring and get be alternated with buttermilk, coconut water or yummy smoothies made with seasonal fruit. This will contribute to their 5 a day too
Snacks: The constant demand for snacks has made me wonder how my child has managed all these years at school with 2 breaks! I’m sure it’s the same with most of you. Research has shown that lonely environments make children hungrier. Online learning in this virtual environment is quite isolating. It’s easy to reach for those munchies out of a packet. Instead try veggie sticks like carrot cucumber with a lovely homemade dip (yoghurt/a pinch pf salt and a bit of sugar with chopped spinach and a dash of olive oil makes an amazing dip). Fruits are fantastic too. Nuts, Makhana (roasted foxnuts), sprouts salad and for the bakers out there, homemade healthy muffins and biscuits are all fabulous and delicious at the same time
As new challenges emerge, we need to ensure that our kids remain healthy and make the most of their time in their virtual classroom until it’s safe to get back to their schools.