Recommendations for children’s screen use

Écrans : recommandations

Increasingly, the trend is to focus on recommendations regarding screen use that target overall habits rather than only screen time. Here is what the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology have to say.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends remembering the four essential M’s:

Manage screen use, for example:

  • Conduct a self-assessment of habits with regard to screen use by family members and develop a plan that determines how much time is spent online and the content authorized according to the children’s ages, as well as where devices can be used.
  • If possible, be present and participate when your kids use screens and also discuss the subject with them.
  • Use parental control apps and security settings if necessary.

Encourage Meaningful screen use, for example:

  • Ensure that daily activities, (face-to-face interactions, sleep, and physical activity) take precedence over screen use.
  • Avoid screens at least one hour before bedtime because of the potential effects on melatonin suppression.
  • Help children choose content adapted to their age and development, and don’t hesitate to get involved in their online activities, even for video games.

Model healthy screen use, for example:

  • As a parent, review your own media habits and plan time for hobbies, games and outdoor activities.
  • Encourage daily family screen-free times, especially for family meals and socializing.
  • Ensure screens are off when not in use, including the TV in the background.

Monitor for signs of problematic screen use at every age, for example:

  • if screen use interferes with sleep, school or face-to-face interactions;
  • if screen time interferes with offline play, physical activities or socializing face-to-face;
  • if children complain that they are bored or unhappy if they don’t have access to technology.

Source: Michelle Ponti, Digital Health Task Force. Digital media: Promoting healthy screen use in school-aged children and adolescents. Paediatrics & Child Health 2019;24(6):402-8: With permission.

According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth (5-17 years of age), which is somewhat the equivalent of Canada’s Food Guide but for physical activity, have also taken a holistic approach by focusing on all movement-related behaviours observed during a day. Here are the new guidelines:

A healthy 24 hours includes:

  • SWEAT: Moderate to vigorous physical activity
    A total of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities as well as muscle and bone strengthening activities should each be incorporated at least 3 days per week.
  • STEP: Light physical activity
    Several hours of a variety of structured and unstructured light physical activities.
  • SLEEP:
    Uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for those aged 5–13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14–17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times.
  • SIT: Sedentary behaviour
    No more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time; limited sitting for extended periods.

Preserving sufficient sleep, trading indoor time for outdoor time, and replacing sedentary behaviours and light physical activity with additional moderate to vigorous physical activity can provide greater health benefits.


In summary

As a parent, it is important to be aware that screen use involves risks and to strive for balance (rather than a certain number of hours), by limiting screen time but also by prioritising quality content at appropriate times and of course by establishing more screen-free moments. Better management of screen use means doing your best to ensure the Internet contributes to your child’s development while reducing the possibility of negative effects on their general well-being.