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Too much, too soon? New guidelines limit infants screen time

Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2017 at 4:06 pm

It’s 2:45 in the afternoon. There’s a crying baby in one arm, two toddlers wrestling for a remote, and a mountain of laundry to conquer. Are you a bad parent if you sit your infant in front of an iPad so you can shower? This question hangs over the heads of young moms everywhere. Technology and its impact on our little ones is a growing concern for many parents, especially since it is everywhere you turn.

To address these concerns, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) released a new position statement on screen time for children ages five and under. The statement says: no screen time for children under the age of two, children ages two to five should have less than one hour per day of screen time, and parents should power down their devices during family time and turn off the television in the background.

Published in the journal, Developmental Review, CPS’ position statement is a systematic review of 76 studies which considers how television exposure affects children’s cognition and overall behaviour. The paper concluded that preschoolers can improve their basic academic skills by watching quality, educational shows like Sesame Street. With infants, however, watching television is associated with “inattentive/hyperactive behaviours, lower executive functions and language delay, short term.”

screen time

“We do know what does benefit early learning and that is face-to-face, live interactions with an engaged parent or other caregiver,” says Dr. Michelle Ponti, pediatrician from London, Ontario.

In an ideal world, most parents would opt to read a paper book to their child instead of sitting them in front of the television or iPad. But that isn’t the reality for parents today. Having to juggle a job, more kids and other household chores can be downright exhausting. As a mother of three, Dr. Ponti understands how difficult it can be to separate screen time and family time.

Dimitri Christakis, Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital argues parents should be given some more slack. “I often to say to parents, if you’re using the device to give yourself a break … I think that’s fine. I really do,” he said. “But know that that’s why you’re doing it. I think if you’re using it because you think it’s educational or beneficial for your child, that’s where you need to think again.”

There are ways to manage the amount of screen time your little one receives. The Canadian Paediatric Society’s position statement outlines the four “M”s when monitoring your child’s screen time.

Minimize screen time

Screen time for children under two is not recommended. Ages two to five, screen time should be limited to 1 hour per day.

Mitigate screen time risks

Parents should be present and engaged when screens are being used. The content displayed should be age-appropriate, educational and interactive.

Be Mindful of screen time use

Create a family media plan where you establish when, where and how screens may and may not be used in the home.

Model healthy screen time

Parents should lead by example by powering down their devices during family time, turning off screens when not in use and avoid the background television noise.



Aileen Ormoc | The Edge Blog

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