Screen Time and your Kids – How Much Is Too Much?


Kids and screen time, how much is too much?


Many parents are concerned about their kids’ screen time, and it seems that the average screen time is increasing. As a parent myself, I researched the effect of too much screen time on the kids, and several facts surprised me.

First of all, what is screen time, you might be wondering. It used to mean how much time was spent staring at the TV, but we have more screens to choose from these days – iPads, gaming consoles, smartphones, and more. I’m often amazed at how many hours kids spend using these devices every day.

Too much screen time for kids can’t be healthy, can it?

Well, the Canadian Paediatric Society’s official recommendation is a maximum of 2 hours of screen time per day for kids over the age of 2. Younger children shouldn’t watch any TV, although a lot of them are watching more than this.


Why Restrict a Child’s Screen Time?

Screen time has been found to cause various behavioral issues such as poor sleep, obesity, and inattention. Kids with ADHD seem to have worse symptoms after screen time.

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Also, physical development is critical in kids, and a child watching TV or playing video games isn’t outside getting fresh air or exercise. The time spent on screen could have been time doing something beneficial.

Children often eat unhealthy snacks while watching the tube, meaning they’re more at risk of poor nutrition, including vitamin D deficiency and obesity. There is plenty of literature with data about how excessive screen time is linked with poorer health.


Impact on a Child’s Development

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens off around babies and children younger than 18 months. However, they say a little screen time can be okay for older toddlers, and children 2 and older should get no more than an hour of screen time per day.

But the AAP emphasizes that setting time limits isn’t enough: Choosing high-quality programming or games is also important.

Screen time has been proven to affect obesity rates in young kids in a major way. A recent study found that the more time a young child spends on a device, the higher their BMI will be.

For children of all ages, it’s important to get up and move because physical activity boosts development and encourages healthy habits for everyone.


How to Turn off Screen Time

Remember, the amount of screen time your kids have is entirely up to you; make sure they choose high-quality programming. You can use a screen time app on a tablet or smartphone or plan 1 or 2 hours maximum screen time.


Healthy TV Screen Time Habits for Kids

Here are some great tips for parents concerned their kids are watching too much TV:

  • Think about no TV on weekdays, or at least not until after homework is done.
  • Don’t keep televisions in kids’ rooms.
  • It’s easier to instill healthy screen time habits in younger kids, so start right away.
  • Don’t let them watch violent shows since these have been found to increase violence in kids.
  • Educational shows with science, nature, history, and so on are always better than stereotype-filled, violent ones.
  • Watch television with your child, and you can talk about topics like friendship or sharing with them when you see it on a show. You can also talk about advertising and commercials.

Remember that kids also learn by example, so if you want to instill the concept of healthy kids’ screen time, you will need to be a role model yourself and limit your own watching hours. The same rules should apply to babysitters, grandparents, and other carers.


Screen Time Tips for Young Children and Their Computers

Limit screen time for kids, have it apply to other devices like the TV and screen media. Here are some handy tips for computer, tablet, and smartphone screen time:

   – When children introduce digital media and video chatting into their world, they usually submerge themselves into their devices. Parental controls and screen time limits can help with this obsession that almost everyone has with social media.

   – Try limiting your child’s screen time to no more than two hours a day.

   – Computers are best kept in shared areas rather than in your child’s bedroom. Consider a screen time app and online protection so you know which sites your child is accessing.

   – Regardless of the average screen time you prefer for your young children, it might be a good idea to ban screens for a couple of hours before bedtime. Also, keep all screens off during meals.

   – Remember, the TV or computer is a machine, not a babysitter. There are plenty of other activities kids can enjoy to keep them busy.

    – If you aren’t sure where to start, perhaps plan screen exposure with a 1-week schedule, so you can plan ahead what your child will watch. Older kids can be given the option of an hour of television or an hour of video gaming, perhaps, so they feel involved in the decision.

Finally, since the weather is warming up, please encourage them to get outside and enjoy the fresh air!


 Frequently Asked Questions


What does the American Academy of Pediatrics Think About Screen Time?

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children aged 18 to 24 months should not be exposed to screens at all. However, children ages 2-5 years old can have an hour or less per day, and video chatting is allowed for kids in this age group.


How much screen time should my kids get?

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, children younger than two should have no screen time, and kids more than two should have no more than 2 hours a day.


Why restrict kids’ screen time?

Excessive screen time for kids has been associated with poorer language and social development, increased inattention, and violence.

There are some benefits to television or high-quality programming. Young children can learn some things from the media. However, it should not be the only source of teaching.


Does screen time for young children impact their physical health?

Yes! Every hour watching a screen, a child is not moving their bodies or getting time outdoors. Excess screen time is linked to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and poor physical health. Limit screen use.



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Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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