Screen time and preschool children

siblings lying on cozy couch and playing game on digital tablet while their parents wrapped up in watching TV, interior of studio apartment on background

Screens are everywhere! The temptation to log in, to quickly check that email, and to look at the latest post or best deal, distracts us all. And when we use screens, our children notice and become interested.

Studies suggest:

  • 76% of preschool children exceed the recommendations for screen time exposure.
  • increased exposure to screen time is having an impact on the physical, behavioural, mental and social health of our children
  • toddlers who are exposed to mobile media devices are at higher risk of expressive language delays. With an extra 30 minutes of exposure a day, children are 2 times more likely to have an expressive language delay.

Screen time is having a negative effect on our children. So, what should we do?

  1. Minimize or eliminate screen time
    • The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends the following:
      1. For children under 2 years old, screen time is not recommended.
      2. For children 2 to 5 years old, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.
    • Set limits and develop a schedule
  1. Be present and participate
    • Watch the show/explore the app with your child when possible
    • If the show/app asks a question, encourage your child to answer
    • When the show is over, discuss it with your child. Ask questions, talk about your favouite part or character
    • Re-enact the show and model/encourage imaginary play by acting like the characters
  1. Be aware
    • Become familiar with the content and apps that your child is looking at
    • Try to expose the child to educational material
    • Be a good role model – limit your own screen time and ensure that screens are off during meals and family time

Reducing screen time can be challenging – the first step is to start setting healthy habits at home! By slowly reducing the amount of screen time and by adding in new activities, a new routine will be created.

My last post discussed the power of play and the positive impact it has on our children. We know that children under the age of 5 learn best through interactions,…so, let’s be mindful of this. As parents, let’s try to put our phones away, turn off the tv, and reduce how often our children play and explore mobile devices. Instead, let’s model language through play!

If you have concerns about your preschool child’s communication milestones please contact Early Abilities or fill out the self-referral form to access our speech and language services.

As of April 1, 2022 the Preschool Speech and Language, Blind-Low Vision and Infant Hearing programs have moved from Toronto Public Health (Early Abilities) to Surrey Place. To register for services or learn more about the programs, please visit Surrey Place or call 416-925-5141.

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