Children's screen time during homeschooling and coronavirus

  • Awareness
  • 27/04/2020
  • Austrian Safer Internet Centre

Ever since schools have closed in Austria, remote teaching has become children's new daily reality. Some children perceive it as the freedom to structure their day between leisure and working time independently, while others – especially those with learning difficulties and their parents - struggle with homeschooling. Another consequence of the COVID-19 crisis is that children's screen time has significantly surged.

In regular times, parents and teachers are on the frontline, critically inspecting how many hours their children or students spend online. With the current lockdown measures, this has changed, as the priorities have shifted. School children have a lot of work to do for school, for which they rely heavily on digital devices: they need to write papers, watch documentaries, participate in video calls, and so on. In sum, this makes them spend significantly more time behind screens than in normal times.

Due to insufficient coordination among teachers, the amount of schoolwork can rapidly become overwhelming. One teacher per subject can imply a lack of oversight about how much screen time results from the individual tasks. To circumvent this, the Austrian SIC recommends learning platforms, which allow an oversight of how many hours of online activities have been set, which might encourage teachers to design offline schoolwork. Another option is to agree that a single teacher would supervise the distribution of tasks per day, so as to ensure that children do not spend excessive time on screens.

These recommendations aim to ensure that children do not spend more time on screen as they would, if they had attended school. Screen time needs to be taken into account when considering all schoolwork, including live meetings. Children should be encouraged to do offline activities, as well as to take regular breaks.

Knowing the boundaries of students

Laptop – Smartphone: A lot of students do not have a laptop to work at home – they use their smartphones to do their homework. However, a lot of online exercises are not compatible with mobile devices – they require a larger screen or plugins, which do not work on certain smartphones.

Online meetings: To participate in an online meeting requires a good internet connection. Due to location, a lack of equipment or bandwidth for the number of users, a lot of students cannot properly participate. Teachers need to check with their students whether the conditions for online meetings can be met.

.doc or .txt: Teachers should consider that not all their students may have Microsoft programmes at their disposal. If there is no offer from school available for the class, documents should be shared as pdf or .txt.

Be creative and ask for feedback: These times can also be the occasion to try out new online tools and methods – and this should be done in close cooperation with the students. Teachers are advised to ask their students about how their experience is the proposed solutions and the new daily work structure.

Find out more information about the work of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

Related news

Austrian Safer Internet Centre: COVID-19 resources

The Austrian Safer Internet Centre has published a number of articles (in German) on staying safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you can find them organised by topic.

COVID-19 – How to deal with scaremongering and disinformation

  • Awareness
  • 30/03/2020
  • German Safer Internet Centre

Is Ibuprofen a potential risk for COVID-19 patients? Will grocery stores shut down? Will the internet be able to keep on functioning? Rumours linked to the newly discovered coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are spreading faster than the virus itself. The German Awareness Centre klicksafe offers some useful tips to find your way through the chaos.

Staying safe online during the coronavirus pandemic

We are in unprecedented times. As schools close and people are confined to their homes due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are using the internet and online services more now than perhaps ever before. Being online is providing a lifeline for everyone in society from the young to the old, learners and workers, and the vulnerable, curious and those seeking an escape from boredom. This is probably, therefore, a good time to remind ourselves of a few key points to keep safe online.