Screen Time: Tips for Setting Reasonable Limits

Parent reading to toddler

Our nurse Allison Stockley shares part 3 of her series on the importance of the early years. Her first post reminded us to check in on our child’s development and her second post taught us about the importance of playing with our children. This post gives us some tips on screen time.

Screen time is the amount of time your child spends using a device that has a screen such as a TV, computer, video games, tablet or smartphone.

For many families screen time has increased during the pandemic.  We have become dependent on screens for on-line learning, entertainment and connecting with family and friends.  Giving up screen time is not possible. It’s okay if your family’s screen time is a little higher than usual.

Focus on quality not quantity: what children watch (i.e., the quality of the show) and how they watch it (i.e., while interacting with you vs. alone) instead of how much children watch.

What is the recommended limit on screen time for children?

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) provide the following recommendations:

  • Children under 2 years of age – No screen time
  • Children 2-4 years of age – Less than 1 hour per day
  • Children 5-17 years of age – Maximum of 2 hours a day of recreational screen time (this does not include screen time for academic purposes)

While screen use may be up for most families during the pandemic, it is important to let go of any shame or guilt you may feel about your and your family’s screen use during these challenging times. There are ways to set reasonable limits on screen time and reduce the potential negative impacts on children’s health.

 Tips for setting reasonable limits for screen time

  • Find balance between essential screen time, recreational screen time, and screen-free time
  • Set aside screen-free quality play time with your child every day. Children under 5 learn best with real world experiences and face-to-face interactions.
  • Create a healthy daily routine for your family that includes physical activity, and time outdoors. It will help children concentrate and learn better, and by consistently including screen-free activities into your daily routine, your child’s screen time will naturally decrease.
  • Know what your child is watching on screen. Watch with them and talk about what they are seeing.
  • Role model limited screen time. Try to avoid using a tablet or smartphone frequently when you’re with your child. When you must use your device, tell your child what you are doing (dad is looking up a recipe, mom is checking the weather report).
  • Consider the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.
  • Avoid using screens at meal time and at least one hour before bed.
  • Turn off screens when they’re not in use (don’t keep the TV on in the background)

For more information:

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