Is Screen Time Safe For Kids?
Dr. Joelene Huber, pediatrician, weighed in on the matter today with Matt Gallaway on CBC Metro Morning today.
Previous recommendations state that children below the age of 2 yrs should not get any screen time and children between the ages of 2-4 should get no more than 1 hour per day, and children older than 4 years should be limited to 2 hours max per day.
Dr. Huber’s position stated that screen time – such as learning programs on tablets – might not be as bad as once thought, for OLDER children. For children below the age of 2, screen time reduces the amount of one-on-one interaction with parents – the time when their little brains are forming and creating connections. Additionally, screen time before the age of 1 (2 hrs) can interfere with language development as parents will interact and talk less to the child, resulting in less of a language rich environment.
Now, screen time (the timing, the content, and the light emissions) can still interfere with sleep hygiene (increasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, triggering hormones/emotions, or affecting the body’s natural circadian rhythm). And it can interfere with their attention – which can affect their performance at school.
The content and quality of screen time need to be considered in the discussion of “how much is too much”… as Dr. Hubert explains, facetiming with grandparents or doing research for homework is not equal to sitting in front of the TV.
But the other thing to consider is WHAT ELSE is my child doing during the day? Did they get enough pretend play time? Did they get enough outdoor, unstructured play? As a registered dietitian, I have counselled many families in the area of Pediatric Obesity, where children are struggling with excess weight gain as well as elevated blood sugar/insulin levels, triglycerides, and even elevated blood pressure.
One common link (of course, every patient and family is different) was the amount of screen time they were entitled to; or the flip side of that, how much outdoor and running around play they were NOT getting.
Children really need between 60 minutes (younger children) to 90 minutes (older children) of MODERATE (sweating) activity each day, and it is best obtained in unstructured play where kids can play creatively and imaginatively. But they don’t just go run hard for 60 minutes. They run and stop and run and explore and run and stop again. So they need closer to 3 hours of outdoor unstructured play time to get their 90 minutes of moderate activity.
So is the question how much screen time is my child allowed? Or should the question be did my child get all the other necessary learning play time they needed, to now allow them to watch a screen?
The second point I want to add, is the screen time hygiene we allow our children to have. Are children eating meals/snacks in front of the TV? The one thing about eating in front of screens is that is leads to MINDLESS EATING…. Meaning our minds are not taking note of how much we are actually eating. We are not listening to our bodies about whether we have eating enough food… and we usually over eat in these situations. Additionally, if there are food commercials, the commercials will trigger us to want to eat more food, often junk.
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you the best of health,