Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Children and screen time

Kari Hagen
Kari Hagen, Alberta Health Services - It has become common to see children playing with electronics or being in front of a screen. Often electronics seem to be a lifesaver in our busy lives, keeping children occupied while we do other tasks or household chores.  Long periods of time spent in front of a screen has a direct effect on our child’s development and health. In many cases, time spent on electronics has reduced the time available for the child and their caregivers to interact, go outside, play with toys, read etc.

The Canadian Pediatric Society suggests no screen time for children under two years old; less than one hour of screen time per day for children between two and four years old; and less than two hours of screen time per day for older preschool children.

These suggestions might seem strict as electronics may appear to be a good activity to give our children while we take care of other things we have to do. Instead of using electronics to keep our child busy, try involving the child in the activities we are doing. Our child might enjoy watching us vacuum or do dishes. As they grow older they might want to help dust, do dishes, clean the floor or other tasks.

We are often not aware of how much time we let our children use on electronics. It might be helpful to track it for a day or two so we know if there is an issue or not in our household. I found it very interesting tracking my own time on electronics, as all those quick times I pick up the phone to check a message really add up throughout the day!

When we as caregivers spend a lot of time on our electronics, we automatically model this behaviour to our child. We know that children like to copy what we do.

Try spending time with your children without the distraction of any electronics. This may help us to be more present in the moment, enjoying the time with our child, and it also helps us to be able to supervise our child uninterrupted. Children like spending time with their caregivers and enjoy playing games together. Limiting screen time encourages the whole family to be more physically active, playing games outside and inside.

A couple of suggestions on activities to play with children outside is blowing bubbles and playing with sidewalk chalk. These activities usually keep the children occupied for a while, and at the same time can be a great stress reliever for the rest of the family.

For parenting/child development programs/information in your area contact Kari Hagen, AHS Health Promotion Facilitator,

Best Babies and Building Blocks in Medicine Hat, Brooks, Bow Island, Oyen and surrounding areas, and  Families First and First Steps in Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, Crowsnest Pass, Taber, Milk River, Raymond and surrounding areas.

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