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:
- 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.