Screen Time and Device Advice

A same sex male couple, with their young daughter, sit at the kitchen island looking at a tablet screenScreen time is an important part our kids' daily lives. It can be tough to balance time online with other activities. Negotiating limits happens when adults and kids sit down together and talk about how both spend time online and each other's expectations. Together, you can come up with a screen time agreement everyone can live with. 

Different rules for different kids

Device use and screen time can look different depending on an individual kid's needs. For example, youth with different abilities may rely on technology and social media for more of their social interaction, while youth in rural areas may only be able to connect with their friends through social media and by using technology. 

Kids' time online and on their smartphones is not just about taking selfies and sending texts, Snaps, Tik Toks and DMs. Youth are using technology, social media and the internet to learn, grow and connect. They may be using an app to learn a new language, or social media to work with a friend on a school assignment. They may be connecting with a friend who needs someone to lean on, or simply unwinding from a stressful day by playing a game online. Having good online practices will help youth when it comes to self-regulating screen time and device use. 

Setting limits and finding balance

Time online can vary day to day, from person to person, and on the situation. A storm day could mean more time online, while a Sunday before a big exam could mean limited screen time. Mealtime may be a non-negotiable no-technology time in your house, and a time to connect with each other, device free. The limits you set depend on you and your kid, and the agreements you make together when putting together your online safety and technology use agreement.

Online and device use also varies by age. Teens may have more freedom online and in using technology, while adults with young children may need to put in place parental controls to limit online time and what their young child is accessing. By explaining in easy-to-understand terms why such steps are being taken, younger children will learn why it is important to be mindful of their time online. This will instill in them the tools they need as they get older to be good digital citizens and to protect their online footprint. 

Screen time tips for caregivers

The Canadian Paediatric Society has come up with the four Ms when it comes to screen time: minimize, mitigate, be mindful, and model. 

  • Minimize screen time. The Canadian Paediatric Society does not recommend screen time for children under age 2. For children aged 2 to 5, it recommended screen time of less than one hour a day. The Canadian Paediastric Society also recommended avoid screen time one hour before bedtime. 
  • Mitigate possible negative effects of screen time.  Make educational programming a priority, and, when possible, be present when screens are being used. Know what your children are doing on their screens, ask questions, and, if possible, watch with them. 
  • Be mindful of all screen use in the home. When not used, turn off screens. Reduce screen use whenever possible, and avoid having screens on as background noise. Set limits, including no screens during meal time.
  • Model positive habits. Adults should be aware how they use screens, as this can influence kids’ behavior. Model good practices and, together, develop an online screen and technology use agreement.  

The goal is to achieve a healthy balance; for youth to have good online practices; and for everyone to know their limits, be safe and, most importantly, feel empowered and have fun.

And remember, adults need to practice what we preach when it comes to screen use. Try to model good behavior when it comes to how much time you spend online

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