Family Screen Time Blog
When a new and noteworthy study is introduced into the literature, it is important that we as readers evaluate it for its strengths and weaknesses, and take a closer (critical) look in order to decide for ourselves whether its conclusions can be believed without skepticism. So that’s what we’re going to do!
We have all either seen or heard of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s overarching recommendations for healthy screen usage as it pertains to young children. But even with these resources available, the question remains - how do we put these guidelines into practice?
We live in an age of information, where scientists and psychologists are constantly uncovering new tidbits of information about child development—which is undoubtedly extremely helpful to parents. But there are negative aspects to this constant stream of information, one of the main ones being that new and noteworthy findings are often taken as indisputable fact by readers who may be unaware of the possible limitations to the findings and how they came about.
One of the most popular phrases in the discourse surrounding screen time and young children, whether from mainstream media or from research-based recommendations, is “good quality” screens. You will often read that screen time is not such a bad thing, as long as your child’s time spent on it is limited and the media they consume is of “good quality.” But what exactly makes some types of screen time more “good quality” than others?
The internet is full of information, and we are constantly bombarded with social media posts, news articles, and blog entries that make bold claims with significant implications every day. How can we tell which of these claims to believe, and which are more fiction than fact?
Early childhood is a key developmental stage. As such, it is important to know and understand factors that promote (or harm) normal, healthy development. Although several studies have shown that higher screen time in children is related to poorer developmental outcomes, there is little evidence demonstrating the direction of that relationship. In other words, it is unclear whether: (a) screen time causes developmental delays, (b) developmental delays cause screen time, (c) some other external factor causes both developmental delays and screen time, or (d) all of the above. A recent study found evidence for a directional relationship between screen time and developmental delays. How did the authors come to this conclusion?
It’s no secret that children learn by example. As the people they likely spend the most time around, children will pick up many important behaviours and habits from parents. When it comes to behaviours like screen use and physical activity, are you modelling healthy behaviours for your child to follow?
As part of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s recommendations for healthy screen time behaviours in young children (described here), parents are encouraged to think about limiting their child’s use of screens before bedtime, as well as access to screens in the bedroom. Why are these limits a good idea?
In April 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age, which provide recommendations for daily time spent in each of these areas.
The Canadian Paediatric Society has provided thoughtful recommendedations for screen time in families with young children. You can read the full article, which includes a discussion of the research that informed these recommendations.