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Device time for children: New guidelines from Canadian doctors


TORONTO –

The Canadian Pediatric Association has abandoned setting fixed time limits on screen use in toddlers and preschoolers, encouraging parents to prioritize interactive, educational materials instead. and age appropriate.

New guidelines published on Thursday morning still recommend no screens for children under two, except for video chats with others, such as grandparents.

But a previous recommendation to limit screen time to one hour a day for two to five-year-olds was dropped as the team reassessed our changing relationship with work. turmeric.

Calgary pediatrician Dr Janice Heard, a member of the group’s digital health task force, said parents should focus on reducing passive screen use, co-viewing with children and shaping the desired behavior.

“The best thing they can do for their kids is interact with them face-to-face if possible,” Heard said, adding that the pandemic lockdowns have reversed the pre-COVID-19 momentum to limit restrictions. screen use in different age groups.

“Then they’ll naturally reduce the amount of time their kids spend on screens when they realize it’s not teaching them anything, isn’t helping them in any particular way. small, that’s actually quite harmful.”

Heard says screens aren’t bad by themselves, but they replace activities that are important to a child’s development. She says that excessive screen use by young children can interfere with language development, social behavior and executive function.

The new guidance emphasizes four principles — reduce, reduce, conscious use, and model healthy screen use.

But Heard hopes moving away from recommended time limits will encourage parents and families to proactively set boundaries for passive consumption and consider when, how and why. they allow small children to use the screen.

Similar principles can be extrapolated to older children and adolescents, Heard said, for whom the pediatric association issued similar guidelines in 2019 to encourage child-based limits. without a hard time limit.

Natalie Coulter, director of the Institute for Digital Literacy at York University, says the pediatric society’s time limits have long been a source of stress for many families when it comes to uncertainty about what to expect. what is acceptable.

“It assumes the true simplicity of ‘good times’ and ‘bad times’. Even trying to (to define) what a screen is,” said Coulter, associate professor of computer science and engineering. media research and communication said.

“There’s a really blurred line between the real world and the digital world right now. It’s no longer a clear description. If you go to school through a screen, is that screen time? Is it real or good? digital?”

Coulter was part of a research team that interviewed parents of children ages 4 to 12 about screen use during the pandemic. The study included 15 families in Canada, along with many others in Australia, Colombia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, China and the United States.

Stress over how to respond to on-screen suggestions is a common theme, she said, and the concept of an imposed time limit is outdated.

“Parents are under too much pressure and too much guilt,” Coulter said. “It’s not realistic and it just adds to the parent’s feeling of not being good enough.”

“I have two daughters (and) I absolutely struggle with it, it’s not like I have these excellent answers. But I think, like anything, as soon as you set the rules. binary is really hard, then the dialogue pauses for a bit.”

Matthew Johnson, chief education officer at Ottawa-based MediaSmarts group, admits there’s a complicated squeeze when it comes to texting. He was involved in writing the new guidelines as a member of the pediatric association’s digital health task force, and noted that focusing on harms could detract from advice. constructive on how to build media literacy.

“There is also a risk that if the device time guideline seems unrealistic, it will be ignored,” says Johnson.

“It seems like if you can’t get to that guideline, because it’s so impractical, then there’s nothing you can do to manage the role of screens in your household. I think putting strategies in place. strategies for parents will be much more valuable for establishing positive usage and positive relationships with screens.”

The new guidelines also encourage pediatricians to discuss screen use during routine visits, with Heard expressing concern that not many families she speaks to seem to be aware of the risks. from the screen.

“I would ask them the question: How much screen time does your child watch? ‘Oh, maybe an hour before school, a couple of hours after school, then in the evening, and they have TV in them. my bedroom. bedroom,” she said.

“And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we haven’t done a good job educating our young parents.”‘

Even small changes can have a big impact on families wishing to limit screen use, she says, suggesting screen-free times of the day, screen-free areas indoors and turn to reading and crafts as alternatives.

“They don’t have to change their entire lives. But even by doing something, they can improve the outcome of what’s going to happen to their children,” Heard said.

“(At) CPS, we’re all parents, we all understand that. We want to be able to give people specific things they can do to make a difference and without completely disrupting their lives.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2022.

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