While screen time recommendations may vary slightly by age group or the latest research, the one-thing experts seem to agree on is that less screen time is better. Here are the recommended guidelines by age:
- Babies and toddlers should not have any screen time.
- Preschool children between the age of two and five should have only one to two hours of screen time per day.
- Children between the ages of five and eleven should get no more than two hours of screen time per day.
However, limiting your child’s exposure to the recommended number of hours of screen time is becoming increasingly challenging. Mobile devices are how many children learn, interact socially and connect with others. According to Active Healthy Kids Canada, Canadian children in Grades 6 to 12 currently spend 7 hours and 48 minutes per day in front of a screen – far exceeding the suggested guidelines.
Here are five tips for setting screen time boundaries and establishing a healthy relationship with technology:
- Encourage “quality” screen time. Monitor the type of content that your kids are consuming. Mobile devices are actively used at school, for homework assignments and classroom discussions that may be taking place online. If your child is using their tablet, phone or computer for educational purposes, this is considered “quality” time. Hours spent on social media? Not so much. Set a time limit on the entertainment side and explain how it differs from their educational use. This will help create a long-term routine where fun can be had after schoolwork has been taken care of.
- Earn screen time. While technology is an increasingly important tool for learning it shouldn’t come at the expense of physical activity. Have your children earn their screen time by getting active. A minute of physical activity for a minute of screen time – or what ever works best for your family. You might find once they get busy off-line they are not as interested in the screens. Plus, unstructured playtime (without screens) is key to the mental, social and physical development of children.
- Create screen-free times or screen-free zones. When you were a kid, there’s a good chance that dinnertime was the golden hour when the TV had to be turned off and the toys had to be left in the playroom. If you create clear guidelines on when and where screens are allowed, it sets expectations for children, so they’re not as upset when you tell them to “turn it off.”
- Set a cell phone curfew. Research found that kids with smartphones get less sleep at night. Staying up late to chat with friends can be tempting and exposure to the screen’s blue light could be doing more harm than good, especially when it comes to their sleep schedule. Some devices allow parental controls that blocks kids out at a particular hour, while other parents ask their children to turn in their devices before bed.
- Be a screen-time role model. Consider your own screen time habits and the example you are setting for you children. Be a role model by setting aside your smartphone and focusing on family at specific times, like during meals, so that they know they are more important than your email inbox.