Tips and Ideas for Managing Family Screen Time
Raising children in a digital world can be a challenge for many families.Technology such as smartphones, tablets, computers, video games, TV, and wearable devices can be useful tools. They help us in our everyday life and work, entertain us, and make it easier to connect with distant friends and family. However, the time Canadian children and families are spending with screens is increasing and many parents are concerned about the negative impact of too much screen time on their children’s development, learning and family life.
The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recently released a set of recommendations for parents of young children around screen time. They recommend parents work to:
- minimize screen time, especially for young children under 5, leaving more time for face-to-face interactions.
- mitigate the potential risks of screen time by being present and engaged when screens are used and by choosing educational, age-appropriate, interactive programming.
- be mindful about screen time by tracking how much screen time the family is using, setting a family media plan, and paying attention to messages about gender, body image, violence, diversity and social issues.
- model healthy screen time habits by choosing healthy screen-free activities (eg. reading, outdoor play), turning off devices at home during family time, and turning off screens (such as the TV) when not in use.
To learn more about the CPS recommendations for screen time and young children, visit www.caringforkids.cps.ca.
Research tells us too much screen time affects our physical and mental health and influences what we do and how we feel. Here are some ways to reduce family screen time:
- Track family screen time. Most adults and children spend more time on screens than they think they do. Try keeping a screen-time log for one week.
- Set limits for how much and when screen time is allowed. Learn about the recommendations based on your child’s age and do your best to follow them whenever you can.
- Set screen-free zones in your home. To get started, experts recommend no screens in the bedroom for adults or children.
- Avoid screen time for at least one hour before bed in order to avoid negative impact on sleep.
- Take a “tech-holiday”. Have the entire family go one day, one weekend or even one week screen free.
- Talk with your children about the importance of reducing or limiting screen time for their bodies and brains.
- Set a good example by monitoring your own screen time use and setting your own screen time limits.
One of the best ways to manage family screen time is making sure you and your children have other ways to be active, learn and have fun. Here are some ways to replace screen time:
- Match screen-time with play time. Work with your family to make sure time on screens is met or exceeded by time spent in unstructured creative or active play. Double playtime to screen time for children under 5.
- Embrace boredom. Boredom helps children (and adults) develop important life skills such as creativity, imagination, self-awareness and problem-solving.
- Keep screen free activities (art supplies, books, building toys) around and ready when your kids claim there’s nothing else to do.
- Instead of having the TV on, play music in the background. Choose relaxing or exciting music depending on you and your child’s moods.
- Read with your child. Visit the library often and choose a variety of books.
- Avoid using screen time as a reward, distraction, or punishment. Learn and use positive parenting strategies that teach calming, self-regulation, and limit setting.
Healthy brains and bodies need human social interaction.Too much screen time can get in the way of vital face-to-face communication. Here are some ways to reconnect:
- Limit screen use in public places and during family routines, such as at meals. Try not to answer texts, emails or calls during family time.
- Use travel time as a chance to catch up and talk about your days, lives, goals and dreams without distraction.
- Play with your child for 30 minutes a day. Follow their lead and turn your device off or to ‘do not disturb’ to avoid unwanted interruptions.
- Find out abut local programs that provide opportunities for your children to play with other children and for you to connect with other adults.
- Get to know your neighbours. Head outside for a walk or bike ride around your neighbourhood. Say hello to a new face!
- Turn screen time into family time. Cuddle up for a family movie night. Introduce your children to a favourite film from your childhood or find a new family favourite.
Learn more about managing family screen time: