When I was a child, our television was always on. My parents allowed my brother and I to watch television as much as we wanted. I remember wondering why some of my friends had restrictions on how much television they could watch.
As a family physician, I advise parents to follow recommendations set out by the Canadian Paediatric Society. Young children learn best from face-to-face interactions with caring adults. It is best to keep their screen time to a minimum.
- For children under 2 years old: screen time is not recommended
- For children 2 to 5 years old: limit routine or regular screen time to less than one hour per day.
Before I had children of my own, I thought it would be easy to keep young ones away from screens. Now that I am a mother of a toddler and an infant, I realize how difficult it is in today’s world.
But there are risks of excessive screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines some of the risks in their position statement:
- Less night time sleep
- Cognitive, language and social/emotional delays
- Less parent-child interactions and child play
As early as 6 months old, my daughter Madi was drawn to screens and electronics. The remote control, our mobile phones, and especially the television were favourites. I found myself upset with relatives who would show her YouTube videos on their phones.
By the time Madi was 15 months old, I was letting her watch shows or YouTube for about an hour a day. She would laugh at the funny parts, and jump when characters jump on screen.
As a mother, I can understand why parents use television or other forms of screen time for their children. I can even see the benefits of allowing screen time when I see my own children engaged in an educational show. I listen to my instincts as both a mother and a physician to ensure that I only allow screen time in moderation.