"A lot of the research kind of gets thrown out at this point," said Evan Ortlieb, Ph.D., a professor of literacy at St. John's University.
Dr. Ortlieb says right now, don't tabulate all the online classroom and school-based screen time. Instead, be cognizant of the rest of the day.
"What do we do with our spare time, our free time, and to what extent do we choose to use that on the computer in online settings," Ortlieb said.
So say there is a child watching a video for a while.
No sweat, Dr. Ortlieb suggests giving a child a task, project, or assignment that goes along with that video.
"It's basically whetting their appetite for what is to come afterward," Dr. Ortlieb said. "It sort of creates a cognitive point to connect with as the story unfolds."
Speaking of stories, there are so many literacy and book apps for kids.
"They can dictate the book, click unknown words and definitions with populate, there are a lot of features to help with accommodations for all learners," he said.
That's all great, but he says nothing replaces a regular book. While nothing replaces hanging out with friends, he says video chats are okay.
"Active participation is doing things with your hands, mind, mouth, with dexterity, it can be having conversations with FaceTime, Google Hangouts," Dr. Ortlieb said.
So does FaceTime with grandparents count as screen time?
"Talking to grandparents for teenagers and young adults, rich history, and traditional knowledge we never inquire about, and this is the perfect time to do that," he said.
Board games, puzzles, scavenger hunts, science experiments, cooking, and talking are all great, screen-free options for kids and adults.
"There should really be a break on a regular basis throughout the day from the computers the online and the digital stimuli," Dr. Ortlieb said. "And can we cut ourselves some slack. We're incredibly uptight about many things right now and this is the last thing we should worry about. Instead, we should just think, how can we utilize it for various purposes."
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