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Online Safety

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Screen Time

The amount of time spent using devices such as smartphones, computers, internet, video games, tablets, and televisions is referred to as "screen time".

It is important for parents and caregivers to guide children and youth in their use of these devices and to set limits for their use.

Facts about screen time:boy looking at phone

  • Screen time may displace time that a child can play and learn with a parent or friend, both of which are important for learning skills such as creativity and problem solving
  • Using an electronic device is often an activity done alone, so it can limit communication with parents and friends
  • Screen time may interfere with homework, as it may be a source of distraction. Skills important for learning may be replaced by features that calculate or provide information with little effort
  • Excessive use of devices can decrease physical activity and increase the risk of obesity
  • Having electronics, such as a TV or computer in the bedroom can disrupt sleep. For children, screen time before bed can change the calming atmosphere that is important for sleep
  • Parents may provide devices to soothe their child, where their child may otherwise have an opportunity to learn a self-regulation skill such as patience, problem solving, and dealing with anger and frustration

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends no screen time for children under 2 years of age, and setting a limit of 1-2 hours of daily screen time for children 2 years and older.

Tips to help children develop healthy screen time habits:

boy looking at phone
  • Avoid any screen-based activities for children under 2 years old
  • Limit older children’s screen time to 1 to 2 hours each day
  • Be aware of your own habits with electronic devices, as children learn many of their values and ideas from parents
  • Keep electronic devices in common areas where you can watch your children use them
  • Take time to sit with your child while using devices as a chance to interact, be aware of their activities, and to provide guidance
  • Ensure a balance between screen time and sports, hobbies, creative, and outdoor play
  • Set limits for screen time, such as not allowing devices to be present during meals and homework
  • Use programs that provide parental controls and set time limits
  • Talk about the importance of shutting off devices and being “unconnected” at night

Research continues to show how important it is for parents and caregivers to develop a strong relationship with their child, to play with their child, and to help him/her learn important skills such as communication and problem solving. But it is clear that computers, phones, and electronic devices are a big part of our world, and when used in excess may impact these important life skills. Children today are playing games, doing school work, talking with friends, and surfing the internet from almost anywhere. Parents as well are using these devices to help with everyday activities, whether at work or at home. It is important to remember, however, that as a parent we play a key role in modeling healthy screen time habits and in setting limits for our children. Be screen wise!