Survey shows pandemic has increased screen time for kids in Alaska
From April 22 through May 4, the Department of Health and Social Services asked 1,078 Alaskans about COVID-19's impacts on their physical health. 770 respondents identified themselves as parents -- and 80% of that group said that during quarantine, screen time had significantly increased in their homes.
Karol Fink is the director of the physical activity and nutrition program at the Alaska State Health Department. She says the survey was mindful of the fact that most children had transitioned to online course work during the school year. Those who reported increases were acknowledging non-academic screen time.
While the survey saw significantly higher response totals in areas like Anchorage and the Mat-Su area Fink says that statewide, the concern over increased screen time is that in almost all cases, it directly competes with the amount of time that children spend engaging in physical activities.
"Kids get most of their physical activity during the school day," Fink said. "All of that was disrupted and cancelled and kids lost the ability to be physically active in that arena."
Now that the school year is ending, parents are being encouraged to find ways to keep their children active but even with playgrounds and parks reopening, safety is a priority.
David Dehart says his parenting approach during the quarantine has been to use screen time in a way that is meaningful. He has allowed his daughter to watch historical shows and make her own cooking videos as a way to stay engaged, but both of them were excited when the municipality of Anchorage reopened outdoor playgrounds.
"Driving by and seeing everything roped off has been hard. A child's mindset is like 'Man, what is going to be taken away next?' Dehart said. "You have to encourage them that it's only temporary."
Sarah Haines is a mother of two. She told KTUU on Thursday that her goal is to get her 2-year-old son outside daily, even if it's just to walk in their neighborhood.
"When we get outside he is so much happier. He listens better and sleeps better," Haines said.
She says that often times, they try to get out early, or on days when the weather is overcast, in hopes that they can avoid crowds. Lately, she has observed other parents taking similar precautions when visiting public play areas.
"You can definitely tell people are still really paranoid," she said. "It's been hard, but I feel like everyone's doing their best to social distance and keep their kids away from each other."
You can see the full results of that DHSS survey