life of
dr. mom

Screen Time and Young Children

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 (CPS).   Young children learn best from face-to-face interactions and it is ideal keep their screen time to a minimum. The CPS recommendations are:

  • 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:

  • Obesity
  • 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 (mainly my mom) 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 still try my best to limit screen time, but I also cut myself slack when we break the screen time recommendations. There are nights when I am so tired from clinic or just want to chill and have snacks and a movie. 

What are your thoughts on screen time?

This post was co-authored by  Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.

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