Stop worrying about screen time and use it as a tool if you can overcome personal isolation with children, a well-known New Zealand psychologist told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a live conversation on Facebook.
Psychologist, author and television presenter Nigel Latta appeared in Ardern’s lockdown series “Conversations on COVID-19” to share with the Prime Minister “tips and tricks for taking care of yourself while staying home to save lives.”
New Zealand is currently in the midst of a large-scale blockade in its attempt to remove the coronavirus from the country. Ardern has been regularly monitoring New Zealanders and providing live chats and other content to those who follow from home.
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In general, Latta’s advice for handling young children at home, at this time, was to try to stay calm around the house, and if that means spending time in front of the screen and facilitating attempts to complete school work , so be it.
He said the parents of the teens can expect them to be “grumpy and unhappy” during the lockdown. “If they just want to retire to their rooms for four weeks and you see them at the end, that’s fine. Let them do it,” he said.
He noted that it is particularly difficult for teens, given the need to have contact with their friends. As such, he said access to devices and the Internet will help.
“I think people care a lot about young people and devices, but they don’t. Having internet access and having access to devices and talking on all the various platforms that they do and get in touch with each other and do all that kind of things, it’s very important, “he said.
And if they want to sleep, so be it, it is for a limited period and a few weeks will not hurt.
“I always think that people with young children, who still get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, are going to listen to people with teenagers complaining that they get up at lunch, and they will think, ‘just shut up, that sounds incredible! ‘”.
Ardern said Latta’s comments about screen time may surprise people, given that many view screens as negative.
“If it’s over the period of a few weeks, it won’t do them any harm,” he said. “Screen time is useful, don’t feel bad about it, it’s fine.”
In the meantime, how do you talk to the children about what is happening right now?
Latta recommended avoiding having news all the time. He suggested shielding young children from the news, but noted that it might be impossible with teens since they’ll find out anyway, so be open to having quiet conversations about what’s going on.
And what about trying to get children to complete schoolwork?
Latta said big conflicts aren’t worth having.
“It’s great that teachers have put resources in some places and there are some kids who will love that, but I know that there are parents who are in conflict with their children because they feel that their children should do this, and are somehow failing them if they are not.
“Nothing will happen to their children if they decide not to do school work.”
Ardern also asked for Latta’s advice for single parents, a group he said he was thinking about a lot during the lockdown.
He acknowledged that this period is particularly difficult for single parents, adding that they must do what they have to do to get through, and again noted that screen time may be necessary.
She added that with older children, negotiation could help and talk to them about how they can work together to make the confinement as easy as possible between them.
Ardern’s video has had more than 1.5 million views on Facebook and thousands more on other channels. Impressive, given New Zealand’s population of around five million.