Screen time and your kids: what you should know

If your child is glued to the screen, you may be concerned. Computers, tablets, cellphones and TVs are part of our everyday lives, but overuse isn't healthy.

Screen time and your kids: what you should know

Is too much screen time bad for kids?

  • Today's parents face unprecedented challenges. At the top of the list is dealing with changes in technology. Science increasingly indicates that too much screen time is bad for developing brains.
  • Here's what you need to know about your child's development and the amount of time they sit in front of a screen.

Screens are not the problem

  • Technology is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, it can be a valuable tool when used to impart information and assist with a child's education. The use of televisions and computers can give children new and exciting learning experiences.
  • However, the overuse of screen time is an increasingly prevalent problem. According to a 2010 Globe and Mail article, the average child in Canada will spend at least six hours every weekday in front of a screen (more on the weekends!), which can have a multitude of negative effects, including sleep difficulties, loss of attention span and even weight gain.

What are good guidelines?

  • The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend restricting screen time, including televisions, computers and electronic games, for children under the age of two. Why? Because children of this age may still be developing brain connections, as well as vision, which can be greatly changed by exposure to screens.
  • For children over two years of age, the Guidelines recommend limiting screen time to under one hour a day, although less is better. While this may seem like a drastic reduction in screen time for children who are accustomed to hours in front of the television or computer/tablet screens, it is a worthwhile endeavour.

How to cut back

  • In order to successfully cut back on your child's screen time in a lasting way, it's essential to provide them with alternative activities. This doesn't mean entertaining your child all hours of the day; you should introduce your kids to new ways to entertain themselves.
  • One idea is to keep a well-supplied art centre, which not only distracts your child from that mesmerizing screen but also encourages creativity. Stocking up on books is another way to help kids stay occupied without a screen. Spending time outside as a family is also a terrific option, which encourages everything from physical activity to teamwork.
  • Technology isn't going anywhere; in fact, it promises to become an increasingly vital part of our daily lives in the coming years. However, this doesn't mean giving in to the screen. By following these suggestions, you can strive toward optimal balance when it comes to satisfying your child's love of the screen without sacrificing his or her health and well-being.
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