Health experts recommend choosing healthy alternatives to screen time such as reading and playing
When children spend time in front of screens, they have less time free for other healthy activities. A balanced day should be filled with learning, physical activity, social interaction and fun activities.
Screen time is the time spent using a screen-based device, such as a smartphone, tablet, computer or television. Not all screen time is unhealthy. Screens can offer an important way to learn and communicate at school and at work. Screens can also be used in an active way – like playing tennis, soccer, baseball or other sports games on a device.
More often, kids use screens for recreational purposes such as watching movies and playing games. They may be sitting, reclining or lying down the whole time they are on their screens. This is called sedentary screen time and many children are getting too much of it. This could interfere with and take time away from healthy activities in their day. It could even affect their health.
Screen time affects many aspects of children's health. While research on screen time is still emerging, it suggests that screen time can harm children's early development and physical and psychosocial health.
|Age||Recommended hours of screen time|
|Under 2 years old||None|
|2 to 4 years old||Less than 1 hour a day|
|5 to 17 years years old||No more than 2 hours of recreational screen time a day|
Few children across Ontario and Canada are meeting these guidelines for screen time
Screen time can interfere with important daily routines, making it difficult for children to stay healthy. In particular, it's vital to power off screens for sleep time and meal time.
The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends young children avoid screens for at least one hour before bed time. Some researchers recommend removing all screens from children's bedrooms.
Sleep is important for children's health, and studies show that it supports healthy weights, better emotional control and greater academic achievement. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology's 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend the following sleep guidelines, along with consistent bed and wake-up times:
|Age||Hours of uninterrupted sleep per night|
|5 to 13 years old||9 to 11 hours|
|14 to 17 years years old||8 to 10 hours|
Having screens, particularly TVs, in children's bedrooms is linked with poor sleeping habits and lights and physiological/mental stimulation from screens, which can make it hard for children to fall asleep.
Health experts such as the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend screen-free family meals.
Where and what children eat and drink are important to their health and supports healthy weight. Canada's Food Guide recommends children aged 2-13 years eat 4-6 servings of vegetables and fruit each day.
Screen time can prompt children to eat unhealthy foods, as they see lots of ads for unhealthy foods and drinks on TV and the internet. Research further shows that screen time is linked to mindless overeating even when there are no food ads. In fact, children who routinely eat meals while watching TV eat fewer vegetables and fruit, and more pizzas, snack foods and sodas.
Eating meals away from screens and eating meals as a family, on the other hand, contribute to healthy eating in children.
When children spend time in front of screens, they have less time free for other healthy activities
Health experts such as the Canadian Pediatric Society say we need to give kids ways to replace screen time with active outdoor play.
Physical activity has many health benefits for children, promoting their physical, psychological/social and cognitive health. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology's 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth aged 5-17 years recommends a mix of physical activities. This includes:
While some types of screen time can give kids a chance to be physically active, it is often sedentary. Research shows that it takes away from physical activity.
Health experts such as the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend giving face-to-face interactions and family time priority over screen time.
While media and social media use can have a range of social benefits for children, real-life social interactions are also good for children. Parent-child interactions are especially important for children's health because they help children:
Screen time, however, may take time away from important real-life social interactions, including family time. This can greatly affect a child's social well-being. With social media in particular, there may also be concerns about cyber-bullying. There may also be negative impacts on relationships and on overall life-satisfaction.
Health experts such as the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend choosing healthy alternatives to screen time such as reading and play.
In a school setting, screens can be used for learning and can enhance the student experience. However, too much sedentary screen time may mean that kids have fewer opportunities to learn from other activities like playing and reading.
Play supports your child's development because it contributes to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. Play helps children develop creativity and imagination. It builds confidence and resiliency. Children learn how to work with others and gain independence. However, passive entertainment such as watching TV disrupts children's play. Even when a TV is simply on in the background, it reduces how long young children play and reduces their focus during play.
Screens can also interfere with children's reading time. They are more likely to use devices such as tablets to play games than to read, and if they have a TV in their bedrooms they are less likely to read.
Parents' use of screens can influence children's screen time. You may sometimes rely on screens such as video games and smartphones to keep your children busy while you do other important tasks, such as chores or running errands. You may even find that screen time serves as family time in your home.
hands-offnon-screen activities ready to occupy your children during times when you are busy.