New Canadian Guidelines on Screen Time for Young Children

Blog New Canadian Guidelines on Screen Time for Young Children
Calgary Reads: There's more to read!

If your family is like many, then making time to read more is probably one of your New Year’s resolutions. That’s a good thing because in November 2017 the Canadian Pediatric Society updated its position statement on screen time for young children and the data shows that 85% of young children are spending too much time looking at TV or computer screens.

Screen time describes the amount of time spent consuming electronic media (which includes TV and movies, computers and tablets, cell phones, and video games) for entertainment purposes. It is an important issue for Calgary Reads as screen time in young children is linked to language delays, smaller vocabularies, shorter attention span, and difficulties in reading.

Only 15% of children under 5 in Canada are consuming less than the recommended limit of one hour of screen time per day. New research from the U.S. also shows mobile media usage (smartphones, tablets, and handheld video games) doubled among 2-to-4-year olds between 2011 and 2013, from 39% to 80%.

What’s new: The Canadian Pediatric Society released its new guidelines on screen time in November 2017 and recommends no screen time for children under 2. Parents can limit screen time using the 4Ms (see table at end of article).

Children should consume high-quality programming with educational value (like Sesame Street) and screen time should not interfere with sleep or physical activity. Parents should view digital content with their children because infants and very young children have trouble relating what they see on the screen with the real, 3-D world.

On books and reading: Reading and book-sharing are considered positive activities, and the new policy cautions that reading is the activity children engage in the least on tablets or smartphones. Being read to from a physical book provides children with a rich and interactive experience in feeling, turning (and even chewing!) the pages; pointing at the illustrations, and developing an understanding of how print “works.”

Children under the age of three don’t learn from TV or other devices; they learn from interactions with other people. The best way to raise a healthy, learning child is to read, sing, talk, and play every day.

Canadian Pediatric Society Guidelines on Screen Time

– Updated November 2017

Guidelines for children under 2 No screen time, of any type
Guidelines for children aged 2-5 1-hour daily maximum
Guidelines for children aged 5+ 2-hour daily maximum

The 4Ms for Screen Time:

Minimize screen time: maintain daily “screen-free” times, especially for family meals and book sharing

Mitigate (reduce) the risks associated with screen time: be present and engaged when screens are used and co-view when possible

Be mindful about screen time: monitor your family’s digital use and set limits

Model healthy screen use: choose healthy alternatives such as reading and playing outdoors

Related Reading:

Position statement: Screen time and young children (Canadian Pediatric Society)

How to manage your child’s development in a digital world (Women’s Post)