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A family Awake

Here's the thing - all work and no play makes Jack and Jill dull! All work on a blue-light emitting device makes Jack, Jill and their family stay awake for hours!

With the need to move learning online because of the nation-wide school closure, the number of hours that my daughter spends on the laptop has increased five to six-fold! We've always been stringent about limiting the time she spent on her iPod or the iPad, which was a maximum of an hour per day.

Schools have been shut for 8 weeks and we've been watching school-created videos, going on Zoom and typing away for about 5 hours per day. Do the maths and the numbers are astounding! This is of course, no fault of the school but the situation has indeed, had tremendous impact on all of us.

Why am I fretting?

I've observed my daughter's interaction with us in the evenings after 5 hours of working online, and at bedtimes. And what are my findings? It isn't good. For a child who has had limited exposure to the melatonin suppressing effects of blue-light, she is having problems sleeping at nights. Her usual bedtime was/still is 8pm but over the weeks, she's been awake at 9.30pm, 10pm and even at 1.30am. She comes out of her bedroom complaining of not being able to sleep. Mind you, my husband and I are also finding it hard to stay asleep most nights, too. (This could be part of ageing but that's another blog post altogether.)

I'm definitely spending more time in front of my laptop. I've been lucky enough to move some training and teaching online but that means I"m facing more lumens than ever before, too. The 5 to 6 hours of onsite training has now been translated to facing melatonin suppressing light. Though some recent studies contradict this, and part of me thinks that mice aren't always good test subjects, I've tried to be a social scientist and have started monitoring the family's daytime exposure to blue-light, the amount of physical activity each week and bedtime routines.

How to reduce screen time?

To ensure that we're not staying up at ungodly hours or waking up feeling like zombies, I've decided to do the following.

* Organise the home learning day using paper-based time table/calendar

* Print out worksheets and any other assigned tasks

* Handwrite work instead of typing on the laptop (promotes writing stamina for when she returns to school, encourages her to think about grammar and spelling without the sneaky computer autocorrection and definitely builds penmanship!)

* Scan completed work for uploading

* Do only the necessary tasks online - emailing, replying to teacher comments and conference calls

* Video record certain tasks and take photographs for embedding in the Google classroom documents

* Email teachers about my concerns and provide a solution for my daughter's learning (because teachers are already subjected to heavy workloads and this extended school closure isn't helping. I believe that if I've a problem, I should try to find a solution and not pass the buck.)

Have you experienced any changes in your children's behaviour? Do you feel that the amount of exposure to blue-light is affecting bedtime? Please comment and let me know your observations.

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