Doctors urged to encourage minimal screen use for toddlers and preschoolers
The group representing Canada's pediatricians is urging health care providers to advise parents that they should minimize the amount of time young kids spend on screens, and instead encourage more active play and time spent together as a family.
In a new statement issued Thursday, the Canadian Paediatric Society called on doctors to recommend that parents and caregivers minimize the amount of time their kids spend in front of screens, such as tablets, TVs, phones and computers.
It says parents should be urged to limit screen time for preschoolers between the ages of two and five to less than one hour a day.
Babies and toddlers under age two should be discouraged from using any screens at all, while all kids should be advised to turn off their screens one hour before bed.
"Children younger than five years old need active play and family time to develop essential life skills such as language and creative thinking," Dr. Michelle Ponti, chair of the CPS Digital Health Task Force, said in a statement.
The CPS also urges physicians to counsel parents on the "4Ms" of screen time: minimizing, mitigating, mindfully using, and modelling healthy use of screens.
To mitigate screen time, they recommend ensuring that educational and interactive shows be prioritized, and that parents sit down and watch shows together with their kids.
"Parents can help kids develop a positive relationship with screens by making sure they are used only at particular times, for specific reasons," says Matthew Johnson, director of education at Media Smarts and a member of the CPS Digital Health Task Force.
"Whenever possible, parents should select high-quality, age-appropriate screen content and watch or play alongside their children to encourage them to ask critical questions about what they're seeing."
To be mindful of screen time, parents should be urged to turn off all screens when not in use and avoid background TV. The statement notes that a child's earliest screen encounters can be formative and that early exposure can increase the likelihood of overuse in later life.
And finally, to model good screen behaviours, parents should stay aware of how their own use of screens influences children.
"As health care providers, we must counsel parents on the importance of face-to-face interaction and encourage adults to model healthy screen habits," said Ponti.
Toronto-based pediatrician Dr. Dina Kulik says she regularly asks her patients' parents about the time the children spend in front of screens.
“At every single visit with my patients on a daily basis, I talk to them about how much screen time they’re getting,” she told CTV News Channel Thursday.
She says she advises caregivers to get children outside and playing if the weather is nice or spending time one-on-one with them when it’s not,
“They learn best when you’re one-on-one with them as opposed to being in front of a TV,” she said.