Home » Wellness » Children's Health » Navigating Screen Time: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers
Children's Health & Wellness

Navigating Screen Time: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

In today’s digital age, children’s screen time has become a prominent part of their daily lives. As technology advances, parents and caregivers often grapple with balancing their children’s screen use with developing healthy habits.

To address this challenge, MediaSmarts, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to digital media literacy, and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend following the “4 Ms” of screen time model, offering strategies to support kids in their digital interactions while fostering responsible screen use.

Minimize screen use, especially for the youngest children

Try to expose babies and toddlers to as little screen time as possible, as the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends no screen time for children under two (aside from video chats with family members). Explain to older children why they need to limit screen time around their younger siblings.

You can also help older kids understand that using screens is a health issue, similar to eating well or brushing teeth. Encourage them to make informed choices about screens.

Set limits that include all screens and establish specific times and places as no-screen zones, such as bedrooms and the dinner table. Screens should be turned off and put away at least an hour before bedtime. MediaSmarts’ research has shown that 80% of kids in grades four to 11 keep their phone in their bedroom with them at night.

Use screens mindfully, as a deliberate activity rather than background noise or habit

Control your media time by being mindful of it. Turn on devices at specific times for particular reasons, and ensure they are turned off and put away when not in use. Prevent children from forming the habit of turning on devices automatically.

Encourage creativity by allowing kids to explore their favorite show or game characters and settings through drawing, writing, or acting out stories.

Mitigate media effects by curating your children’s media choices, setting household rules, and co-viewing when possible

For younger kids, select their media choices and only allow older kids to engage with approved content. Quality matters, and it can make a significant difference in kids’ viewing experience.

Whenever possible, co-view with your kids. Educational media is most effective when watched with parents who can extend and reinforce learning content. Familiarize yourself with your children’s content and discuss any concerns. You can also create a family contract when your child gets a new device to help set the ground rules.

Model good media use for your kids

Pay attention to your media use and consider the messages you’re sending. Develop a family screen plan to demonstrate that managing screen time is essential for everyone, not just kids.

Find ways to use screens together as a family, like video chatting with distant friends or exploring hobbies and interests online.

By modeling responsible behavior, monitoring screen activities, mediating content, and managing your screen time, parents and caregivers can create a healthy digital environment for their children. In a world increasingly dominated by screens, these strategies are essential to ensure that children grow into responsible and well-rounded digital citizens.

Learn more at MediaSmarts.ca.

Next article