As technology becomes more embedded into everyday life, children of all ages are getting more screen time than ever, including those under two years old. Although screens can be used as educational tools, using them too often can have detrimental effects on your child’s development and eyesight.
Recommended Screen Time for Kids
Canadian pediatricians say children under two years old shouldn’t have any screen time. They also recommend that children aged two to five get less than an hour of daily screen time. For children over five years old, screen time should be limited to less than 2 hours of daily screen time.
Children under five learn best by interacting face-to-face. They need active play to develop important life skills. Therefore, it’s crucial for parents to make time for activities unrelated to screens, such as reading, singing, dancing, arts and crafts and playing outside.
General Guidelines on Regulating Screen Time
Establishing rules around screen time early on is key. Here are a few guidelines you can follow:
Turn off screens when no one is watching, including background TV
Turn off screens at least one hour before bed and keep screens out of your child’s bedroom
Maintain daily screen-free times, especially for family meals
Model healthy screen use by limiting your own screen time, especially around your child
Whenever possible, watch content together and discuss the subject matter
Encourage a longer screen viewing distance – no closer than the distance between your fist and your elbow (Harmon distance).
Take breaks from screen viewing to look away from the screen and focus at a distance (20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20’ away)
You should also help your child choose age-appropriate content and encourage them to watch educational programs.
Potential Problems Associated with Too Much Screen Time
Screen time affects more than your child's learning. It can also lead to the following issues:
Sleep troubles. Looking at screens that emit blue light right before bed has been proven to disrupt sleep and reduce sleep quality.
Concentration difficulties. Studies have shown that children who have more than two hours of screen time a day have an increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Digital eye strain. Looking at screens for extended periods of time can lead to unpleasant symptoms like dry and itchy eyes, blurry vision and headaches.
Myopia. Screen time keeps kids indoors, which can impact their eye health. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors helps prevent myopia, or nearsightedness, in children.
According to Health Canada, children who get too much screen time are at risk of being overweight, less school-ready and less able to self-soothe.