SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The affects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah and across the country has forced many of us into adapting to a “new normal.” With parents working from home and kids out of school for a minimum of two weeks or maybe longer.

While keeping the kids safe from potentially catching the virus is recommended, the thought of kids at home and  spending too much time in front of a screen can becomes an issue.

Could spending too much time in an isolated space or countless hours glued to the television, computer or video game have mental health effects?

ABC4 spoke with Dr. Merrill Kingston, Clinical Psychologist, at Primary Children’s Hospital on the subject.

“The correlation data suggests kids who do spend a limited amount of time in front of screens but are also involved in socially focused activities where they’ll have to interact with others are less likely to succumb to depressive and behavioral symptoms, Dr. Kingston says “…if a device or screen replaces or substitutes for being out and about with friends, developing competence or growing up tasks…they’re more increasingly isolated and more susceptible to depressive symptoms.”

As we practice social distancing and limiting time away from others in addition to possible online learning increasing the time glued to some sort of screen, may add to the those feelings of isolation.

Dr. Kingston also mentioned that stress may play a part on a child’s mental health and isolation. He says at his office he sees a decrease in patients throughout the summer months due to the lack of stress from school.

So what if COVID-19 wasn’t an issue, and kids could go about their normal life?

Dr. Kingston says his office’s continual goal is to have kids more engaged with parents be it at home or in extra curricular activities. Thus, not necessarily eliminating screen but simply decreasing it.

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