Coronavirus lockdown leads to spike in screen time

Without being able to go outside much, students find themselves on their phones even more than usual.

Without being able to go outside much, students find themselves on their phones even more than usual.

Mary Fannon and Alice Scott both '21, Copy Editor and Staff Writer

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the Grosse Pointe Public School System to close, many students are asking, “What do we do now?” Due to the immense amount of free time as a result of the statewide shutdown, teenagers have been using their mobile devices more than ever.

Besides working on school work and practicing for standardized testing, South parent Amanda Roraff said she finds that her children are on their phones a noticeable amount. She said she thinks that screen time has doubled since before self-quarantine.

“(The kids go on) Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, text, Facetime with friends and family and YouTube,” Roraff said. “Once in a while, the kids will watch a movie or show with the family.”
According to Nick VandenBrink ’21, it can be very challenging to try and keep yourself entertained while being away from friends and not participating in everyday activities.

“I try to make technology my last option when looking for something to do,” VandenBrink said. “However, I think that when you’re at home 24/7, it’s hard not to be on your devices a couple hours a day.”

To avoid becoming sluggish and lazy, VandenBrink said he finds himself doing activities to stop himself from going on his cell phone too much.

“Besides schoolwork, I’ve been reading and working out at home to stay productive,” VandenBrink said. “(My family has) been getting out as much as possible. We go on walks with our dog often and have gone hiking a couple times. We’ve played cards a couple of times.”

In agreement, English teacher and mother Elizabeth Lulis said keeping yourself busy is essential and creating a to-do list or writing in a planner can be very beneficial.

“I think the best possible way to handle screen time is to attempt to produce a plan that ensures a computer is only part of your day and experience,” Lulis said. “For example, my daughter and her friends created a schedule to help them balance their days at home.”

According to Lulis, by blocking and dedicating time away from mobile devices and the television and participating in activities that aren’t centered around technology, it can help feel like you aren’t tied down to a screen.
“(Creating a schedule) has helped tremendously in making (my daughter’s) day feel controlled, manageable and not tethered to her computer,” Lulis said.

Roraff also said it is important to create a schedule, while at the same time encouraging the kids to participate in family activities that keep everyone off of screens.

“As each day passes, the kids are slowly spending more and more time with us and less time in their rooms,” Roraff said. “We suggest puzzles or games or taking the dogs for a walk. We have been slowly re-engaging the kids into a new structure and routine, but it can be difficult.”

Because such a large amount of this newly-established routine involves schoolwork on a screen, Lulis said it is crucial to still focus on other activities, as she has been doing with her own family.

“It is so easy to allow yourself to be consumed with staying online when your schoolwork is completed remotely, but allow yourself the time to power down and step away,” Lulis said. “My family has been playing board games, completing puzzles, reading, cooking new recipes, coloring, competing in rather intense Nerf wars, walking the dog and exercising.”

Roraff also emphasized the importance of family time and keeping a positive outlook during this period when it is easy to lose sight of priorities.

“My focus during these uncertain times is to find opportunities for our family to spend quality time together,” Roraff said. “We want to stay positive, energized and instill the mantra that this is temporary. Life will return to normal.”

Lulis agreed that despite the circumstances, there is now a lot of free time to take advantage of in a positive way. She said she suggests tackling a skill or hobby that had previously been set aside due to lack of time.

“We need to protect each other by staying apart, but we are given the opportunity to become better people in the interim,” Lulis said. “You have the opportunity to strengthen your bonds with your loved ones, reflect on yourself and quite honestly, simply take a moment to breathe.”

Roraff said even if screen time has increased, that shouldn’t be everyone’s main focus when there are more important things to think about, including the “new normal” that will begin when quarantine is over.

“Yes, screen time is up right now, but does it really matter?” Roraff said. “When the day comes that COVID-19 fades out, there will be far less screen time. Gen Z will appreciate face to face and personal interaction more than ever.”