More than half of Vancouver parents surveyed reported allowing their children to use electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, despite health guidelines.
A team of nurses, including VCH's Reda Wilkes, surveyed parents of children under two years old at community health centres about the amount of time spent in front of any electronic media device such as televisions, computers, cell phones, and tablets.
42% of parents said they did not allow their children any screen time
41% allowed their kids up to 30 minutes per day
18% gave kids an hour or more screen time per day
"We noticed that we were seeing a lot of use of screens in younger kids," said Reda Wilkes, study co-author. "During vaccination clinics, instead of holding their child and cuddling them when they got pain after a shot, parents would be flashing their smartphone in front of them to try and distract them with a video."
needing time to complete household chores
coping with a busy workday
and the belief that it helped with their child's speech and language development.
In children less than two years of age, screen time has been associated with expressive language delays and irregular sleep schedules.
"Young kids are supposed to be constantly moving and when you put them in front of the TV, that just stops." said Wilkes.
The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) offers the following tips for kids:
Discourage screen time for children less than 2 years of age with the exception of live video chat.
For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.
Children younger than 5 years learn best from live, immersive interactions. Given the choice, they will nearly always opt for talking, playing or being read to over screen time in any form.
Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of child care for children younger than 5 years.
Maintain daily 'screen-free' times, especially for family meals and book-sharing.
Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, given the potential for sleep effects.
For more information visit the Canadian Pediatric Society website or UBC's website.