Kids & Company Blog

Preschoolers and Screens

As you are likely spending more time at home with your children, you may be finding it hard to keep their screen time to the desired amount. Our friends at Parenting Power are sharing their advice on preschoolers and screens below! 

“Excessive screen time linked to preschool learning delays.”

As Heath McCoy mentions in UToday:

“One in four Canadian children are starting their school years inadequately prepared for learning and a newly published study led by the University of Calgary shows that excessive screen time is a key contributor to this growing problem.”

Dr Sheri Madigan and her team studied the link between screen time and early childhood development outcomes in 2500 Alberta homes and the findings are important for parents of children 0-5.

“What sets this study apart from previous research is that we looked specifically at the lasting impacts of screen time. Specifically, how screen time when children are two years of age impacts development at three years, and how screen time at three years impacts development when kids are five,” says Madigan, who holds a Canada Research Chair in the Determinants of Child Development. “What these findings tell us is that one reason there may be disparities in learning and behaviour at school entry is because some kids are in front of their screens far too often in early childhood.”

Madigan points to decreased physical activity and decreased caregiver interactions which impact physical and cognitive development in these young children.

Dr Susan Tough, the co-author of this study suggests,

“Most families live in a home with an internet-connected device and many screens… As a generation, we’re increasingly pressed for time. This easy access and accessibility of screens in the home creates a solution which is perceived as harmless for keeping children occupied.”

Both Madigan and Tough recommend that families implement a media plan and we’ve got the tools to help you to do just that.

Download our free Parent-Child Screen Agreement Worksheet and customize the plan for your family with your kids. 


This week, ask yourself these questions:

Do we have a clear screen agreement in place for our family?

How will our family connect and spend time without devices on?

Do I know parents with kids 0-5 who should know about this study?


Canadian Pediatric Society Guidelines (2017)

Minimize screen time:

– Screen time for children younger than 2 years is not recommended.
– For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.
– 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 melatonin-suppressing effects.

Mitigate (reduce) the risks associated with screen time:

– Be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, co-view with children.
– Be aware of content and prioritize educational, age-appropriate and interactive programming.
– Use parenting strategies that teach self-regulation, calming and limit-setting.

As a family, be mindful about the use of screen time:

– Conduct a self-assessment of current screen habits and develop a family media plan for when, how and where screens may (and may not) be used.
– Help children recognize and question advertising messages, stereotyping and other problematic content.
– Remember: too much screen time means lost opportunities for teaching and learning.
– Be reassured that there is no evidence to support introducing technology at an early age.

Adults should model healthy screen use:

– Choose healthy alternatives, such as reading, outdoor play and creative, hands-on activities.
– Turn off their devices at home during family time.
– Turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.

Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell are Canada’s go-to parenting support team! The two co-founded Parenting Power in 2002. Their combined experience in the education sector set them up perfectly to support parents in facing the everyday parenting challenges of life.

Their clients range from individual families to large scale companies seeking to support their employees in feeling confident, capable and calm at home so that they can arrive focused and ready to work. Julie and Gail believe that there is more than one right way to parent and combine research-based information, humorous anecdotes and parenting-tools resulting in audiences and clients ready to face their real-life parenting challenges head on!

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