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04 Feb, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Canadian Pediatric Society updates guidelines for screen time use

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased screen time use among children of all ages, including those under the age of 2. Children under 5 are exposed to more screens than ever before, including televisions, computers, gaming consoles, smartphones and tablets. Because of this, the Canadian Pediatric Society recently released new guidelines for parents of young children. Below are its recommendations, aimed at typically developing children. For kids with special needs, the association of pediatricians recommends asking a child’s health care provider for advice.

Screen time limits

Young children learn best from face-to-face interactions with caring adults. It’s best to keep their screen time to a minimum:

For children under 2 years old, screen time is not recommended (they do not learn from it). The exception is video chatting with caring adults, such as extended family. For children 2 to 5 years old, limit routine or sedentary screen time to about an hour or less per day.

Why should I limit my child’s screen time?

Children younger than 5 years old need active play and quality family time to develop important life skills like language, self-regulation, and creative thinking. Screen time is often a lost opportunity for your child to learn in real time: It takes time away from interacting, playing outdoors, creating or enjoying social ‘downtime’ with family. Too much screen time also increases your young child’s risk of becoming:

◾ Overweight

◾ Sleep-deprived

◾ Less school-ready (e.g., early reading skills, language development, social skills)

◾ Inattentive, aggressive, and less able to self-soothe

◾ Nearsighted (when objects farther away look blurry)

◾ How can I set screen time limits at home?

◾ Setting limits when children are young is easier than cutting back when they’re older. As a family, agree on basic screen time rules that everyone understands and shares.

◾ Consider developing a family media plan to guide when, how and where screens can—and can’t—be used.

Here are some other tips:

◾ Be a good role model with your own screen use—on all devices.

◾ Turn off devices for mealtimes, when reading with your child or when doing things together as a family.

◾ Turn off screens when no one is using them, especially background TV.

◾ Avoid using screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime and keep all screens out of your child’s bedroom. They interfere with sleep.

◾ Choose healthy activities – like reading, outdoor play, and crafts – instead of screen time.

◾ Be mindful of ‘technoference’: This happens when phones and other devices get in the way of daily life. When adults spend too much time on their devices, children may behave negatively to get attention.

How do I choose the right apps, videos or programs for my child?

Ideally, make screen time an activity you and your child do together. Watch with your child and talk about what you’re seeing. To ensure quality content:

◾ Choose educational, age-appropriate and interactive programs and apps. The best educational apps will have a clear learning goal and encourage participation.

◾ Pay attention to messages about gender, body image, violence, diversity, and social issues when choosing content.

◾ Try out apps before your child uses them.

◾ Make sure your child watches programs you are familiar with.

◾ Create playlists or choose appropriate channels (i.e., on YouTube)

◾ Limit your child’s exposure to advertising and commercial content.

◾ Use a media rating system to guide your viewing choices.

Are e-books a good learning tool?

Quality, age-appropriate ‘learn-to-read’ apps and e-books can help with language, as long as you and your child are reading and learning together.

But even the best e-books don’t help children develop skills like page-turning. The physical ‘book experience’ includes heavy handling, being scribbled in or chewed (board books, of course!).

Won’t my child fall behind if he isn’t exposed to digital media early on?

There is no evidence to support introducing technology at an early age to improve your child’s development. Young children always learn best from face-to-face interactions with caring adults. Given the choice, they almost always choose talking, playing, or being read to over screen time.

Is it OK to use screens to calm or distract my child?

Screens might help in the moment, but if used repeatedly, over time your child won’t learn how to self-soothe without them. Use parenting strategies that can help your child develop self-soothing skills, without relying on screen time. Talk to your child’s doctor if you need support.

My child gets upset when I take away screen time. What can I do?

In today’s world, managing screen time is an ongoing challenge. Setting shared family limits at an early age can help. In the moment, use a calm voice, acknowledge your child’s frustration, and try redirecting their interest to another activity or toy.

These new guidelines were provided by Caring for Kids website. For more information, click here.

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