Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exposure to digital media in Canadian family life has increased, as have concerns about how screen time affects children and families. Screens have become an integral part of kid’s lives, just as we are unable to avoid using them on a daily basis, neither can children.
Research shows that screens can have both positive1 and negative effects on children2 depending on how they are used and at what age . While these tools may offer benefits for learning and exploration, too much screen time can lead to poor social skills and poor social attachments to parents and peers. In an effort to help families limit kids' use, the Canadian Paediatric Society3 released guidelines around screen time:
These guidelines are a great resource to help us gauge how much screen time our children should have in a day; however, in reality, there is no magic number that is “just right”. What is as important, if not more so, is the content quality of kids' media5, how it fits into your family's lifestyle, and how your kids engage with it.
To help your family establish healthy screen habits at home, you can use the 4 M’s: minimizing, mitigating (reducing), mindfully using and modeling healthy use of screens, as recommended by the Canadian Paediatric Society6.
The 4 M’s to Help Manage Screen Time Use
MINIMIZE screen time:
- Screen time for children under 2 years old is not recommended; Face-to-face interaction is critical to encourage children’s cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional development.
- For children 2 to 5 years, limit screen time to less than 1 hour per day; Children younger than 5 years old need active play and family time to develop essential life skills such as language and creative thinking.
- Avoid screens at least 1 hour before bed.
MITIGATE (reduce) the risks associated with screen time:
- Prioritize educational, age-appropriate and interactive programming
- Be present and engaged when screens are used and co-view with children.
BE MINDFUL of all screen use in the home:
- Conduct a self-assessment of current screen habits and develop a family media plan7 for when, how and where screens may (and may not) be used.
- Turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.
MODEL positive habits:
- Choose healthy alternatives, such as reading, outdoor play and creative, hands-on activities.
- Turn off devices at home during family time.
- Be aware of how adults’ use of screens can influence children.
To promote optimal child health and development in a digital world, it is helpful to have a screen time plan in place to put away devices somewhere out of sight and engage kids in other meaningful ways. Here are some activities that your kids and family can do to counter the time spent on screens.
- Read a book. Reading regularly with young children supports brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships. Help your child learn the early literacy skills needed for success in school. We have hundreds of physical books in our branches just waiting for you to explore! Check out our Birth to 5, Kids and Teens community web pages for staff book recommendations and our age specific book collections.
- Play. Play is a basic human need and as essential to our health and well-being as rest for both kids and adults. Play a board game, cards, a game of tag, put on a puppet show, or build a blanket fort. The sky's the limit when it comes to finding fun ways to play together as a family. Here is a blog post on how you can support your child’s learning through play.
- Learn a new language. Check out some of our Language & Learning audio CD’s, and listen to them while you color or work on a puzzle. Or, if you’re willing to give them a little educational screen time, try our Little Pim, Mango or GoldFish School language resources. It’s amazing how fast kids pick up new languages.
- Get outdoors. Markham is a great place to explore by bicycle, on foot and other forms of active transportation! As a family, checkout the City’s many parks, trails, splash pads, sports fields and more.
- Learn to cook a meal. Even very young kids can help with basic tasks in the kitchen — in fact, check out this super helpful post about what kitchen skills kids can achieve by age8. Since kids around 9 are capable of preparing a simple meal on their own, get them started with a fun cookbook from our collection.
- Get crafty. There are so many ideas, whether you’re getting out the glitter glue, building with clay, play dough, or scrapbooking. Check out our collection of craft books for both kids and adults. We have a variety of books that will help you learn how to crochet, knit, draw, quilt, upcycle, make pottery and so much more! You can also come into the branch and explore our Makerspaces that offer different equipment such as the Cricut (electronic cutting machine), 3D printer or Laser Engraver to further explore your creative side.
- Perform a science experiment. Have your kids experienced the joy of Mentos in a Diet Coke? Have you created a storm in a glass jar? Or made a volcano out of vinegar and baking soda? It is so much fun. Take out some of our science experiment books or for some quality educational screen time and learning, take a look at our STEAM activity video
- Nugent, C., & Supplee L.. (2018, March 14). 5 ways screen time can benefit children and families. Retrieved August 24, 2021, from https://www.childtrends.org/publications/5-ways-screen-time-can-benefit-children-and-families
- Sick Kids. (2020, May 5). How to help your child set healthy screen time limits. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/Article?contentid=644&language=English#
- Canadian Paediatric Society. (2020, November 29). Digital median and screen time. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.cps.ca/en/tools-outils/digital-media-and-screen-time
- Public Health Ontario. (2015, December 17). Parental support for child health: Screen time [Infographic]. Retrieved August 24, 2021, from https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/p/2015/parental-support-screen-time.pdf?sc_lang=en
- Robb, M. (2020, April 7). Screen Time in the Age of the Coronavirus. Retrieved August 24, 2021 from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/screen-time-in-the-age-of-the-coronavirus
- Canadian Paediatric Society. (2017, November 27).Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/screen-time-and-young-children
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Family Media Plan. Retrieved August 24, 2021, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#home
- Billis, S. (2015, October 15). Getting kids in the kitchen: A helpful guide to teaching kids cooking skills by age. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://coolmomeats.com/2015/10/13/guide-to-getting-kids-in-the-kitchen-cooking-skills-by-age/
World Health Organization. (2012). Data and statistics. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from http://apps.who.int/research/en/
Note: As this content is likely to change over time, the date the website was viewed was included in the retrieval information.