Screens are everywhere – we interact with them every day in our home, work, schools and even just walking down the street. Technology allows us, and our kids, with access to so much information and opportunities. But we are starting to see some downsides to all this screen time – especially for children.
Screen time (watching tv, playing video games, browsing the internet, interacting with social media) has been linked to lower levels of physical fitness and issues with mental health and social development. And too much time alone on the iPad might result in children missing out on important interactions with parents or caregivers that both model and teach emotional regulation – skills th at keep our anger and frustration in check.
So how much is too much?
Well, it depends. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommend the following daily limits.
Children under aged 2 and under: no screen time
Children aged 2 to 4: less than one hour a day of screen time
Children and teens aged 5 to 17: maximum of two hours a day of recreational screen time (watching television, messaging friends or playing computer games)
It also depends on the type of screen time – using a phone to video call a family member has a different effect on our brains than watching a stream of YouTube videos. And of course kids may need to use their computer for school and homework.
Let’s be clear. These are just guidelines – there is no solid science yet that effectively measures the effect of screen time on our brains. So don’t feel guilty if you sometimes use your phone to distract your kid during a long car trip or wait at the doctor’s office, or if some days you just need to let them have that marathon session of Paw Patrol.
So what can you do as a parent or caregiver to help manage your child’s screen time? Here are a few tips:
Make a family media plan that sets out boundaries for screen time. This might include a daily limit, but also rules about where and when screens are used. For instance, no screens during meals, or an hour before bedtime.
Know what your kids are watching – or watch things with them. When you see things that don’t match your values or expectations on screen, discuss this with your child right away.
Before screens are turned on, talk to your child about how long they will be on and what they will be viewing. Set a timer if that helps to remind you both of when screen time is up.
Model appropriate screen use – the rules should apply to you as well!
Consistently enforce those rules with everyone in the family – boundaries help children to know what to expect.
This article appears in our Winter edition of the Kw'umut Lelum Newsletter. Click here to check out the rest: https://www.flipsnack.com/kwumut/kl-newsletter-winter-2022/full-view.html