Cute brother and sister enjoying tablet at home

Digital Dilemma: How to Regulate Screen Time for Kids

Living in a digital world, it seems near impossible to avoid television and tablets. They’re at our fingertips, on our phones and sometimes, simultaneously pumping out content on multiple devices.

Gone are the days of being at the mercy of the old analog TV with only a few select channels to choose from – that is if you were fortunate enough to have a decent antenna or ‘rabbit ear’ reception.

Nowadays, screen time and lounging on the couch don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Screen time can be interactive, educational and fun. Whether you’re watching cable or satellite, or playing games or apps, screen time for children has seemingly endless possibilities. That’s why it can be challenging trying to offer up a healthy dose of TV time while living in the digital age.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends no screen time for children under the age of two. For children between two and five, less than one hour per day is suggested. If you’re unsure how much time your child should have, following these Dos and Don’ts to help guide you:

DO: Choose age appropriate games and apps. Researching them will quickly inform you of the game’s rating, suggested age group and details about the program so you know exactly what your child may be learning or engaging in. Many games have a strong educational component and often times, kids may not even realize they’re learning math or science while playing. Bonus!

DO:  Avoid all screens at least one hour before bedtime. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, using tablets, computers and cell phones at night is associated with lack of sleep time and quality of sleep among children and teens.

DON’T: Use screen time as a babysitter . It’s not always easy to limit or halt screen time altogether, especially during busier times of the day like prepping for dinner. If we’re honest with ourselves, I would argue most parents have relied on  the TV to entertain little ones but be wary of how often you’re using it.

DO: Turn the TV off during meal time. If dinnertime includes watching television, conversation between family members is likely either limited or non-existent. Having the TV on throughout the day as ‘background noise’ isn’t a great idea either since children can become reliant on having it on during every waking hour.

DO: Offer up screen time in short bursts. Try limiting it to 15-minute blocks, a couple of times per day, especially for younger children. Consider reserving it for when you need a few uninterrupted minutes.

DON’T:  Leave your kids to their own devices. It’s important to be present and know what your children are watching or interacting with. If it’s possible, it’s also a good idea to engage with or watch programs with your children.

DO: Choose educational programs, apps and games over television, whenever possible. Stimulating your child’s mind is much healthier than the latter, which usually includes sprawling out on the couch.

DON’T: Watch on nice weather days. Instead, save TV time for rainy days when playing outdoors isn’t exactly ideal.

While going completely screen-free is highly unrealistic for most families, limiting screen time contributes to a healthier, less sedentary lifestyle.