A new study has suggested several simple, practical steps that families can take —including reducing passive screen time and news consumption, having a structured daily schedule and getting enough sleep— to increase mental resilience in children during the covid-19 pandemic. The findings have been published in the open-access journal, PLOS ONE, by Maya Rosen of Harvard University, and fellow researchers.
The covid-19 has wrought an unprecedented change in the lives of children and adolescents. Many of these disruptions, coupled with pandemic-related stressors, are likely to increase the risk of depression, anxiety and behavioural problems in the youth.
For the new study, researchers recruited participants from two ongoing longitudinal studies of children and adolescents in the greater Seattle area. Early in the pandemic, respondents who spent less time on digital devices, as well as those who consumed less than 2 hours of news per day, had lower externalising symptoms. However, more time spent in nature was marginally associated with lower internalising symptoms. Getting the recommended amount of sleep and having a more structured daily routine while studying from home was associated with lower levels of externalising psychopathology six months later.
Finally, the strong association between pandemic-related stressors and psychopathology was absent among children with lower amounts of screen time and news media consumption.
The study becomes relevant today for parents, with key strategies and activities outlined to help support the mental health of their children during the pandemic. “A number of simple strategies families engaged in appeared to promote better mental health during the pandemic including having a structured daily routine, limiting passive screen time use, limiting exposure to news media about the pandemic, and to a lesser extent spending more time in nature, and getting the recommended amount of sleep,” state the authors.