Media use changes in the time of COVID-19


Self-isolation to slow the spread of COVID-19 may have many families throwing out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for media use. Some new guidance can help find a compromise between current needs and best practices.

With many people in the United States self-isolating to slow the spread of COVID-19, parents and children are spending nearly all their waking hours together, with more time spent reading together or doing educational activities. The current situation also can lead to parents ignoring screen time guidelines and to increased stress in the family unit. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some guidance to share with families for how to get through the foreseeable future.1

One of the most discombobulating effects about the current push to self-isolate is that there’s no push to get out the door by a set time or a list of after-school activities to attend. Parents should create some form of routine for each day and explain to children why a routine is necessary. The routine can be as simple as keeping morning and nighttime routines at their normal times to more structured routines that involve timetables or differing lesson times for children based on ages. The guidance also recommends not having news broadcasts on at all times because the constant news stream can increase the anxiety of children as well as parents, and any news should be discussed to ensure that misinformation is corrected.

Of course, the extra at-home time can lead to extra screen time, and memes about throwing the AAP screen time guidelines completely out can be found on Facebook. Extra screen time may be inevitable, but the guidance says to turn that media use to helpful avenues. Parents can ask their children’s educators for online educational activities. Families also should use social media and apps to stay connected to extended family and friends to reduce the mental toll of self-isolation and social distancing. The guidance also suggests that parents have their own “take-your-child-to-work day” and show their children what their work life is like.

COVID-19 and the public’s steps to flatten the curve have altered family life and interrupted the routines of many. Sharing this guidance with families will help them weather the bumps of this new normal.


1. Cross CM. Working and learning from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. website. Updated March 18, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.

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Courtney Nelson, MD
Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor in chief, Contemporary Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, pediatric infectious diseases attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
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