Screen use by children and teens is a complex emerging phenomenon. While it has many benefits, its potential negative impacts are of growing concern. It is possible to promote good screen habits and reduce health risks. This page provides recommendations for healthy screen use by different age groups.
The following recommendations from recognized Canadian organizations are specific to recreational screen time.
To help the public adopt healthy screen habits, Québec intends to compile data that accurately reflect the situation of Québec youth with a view to eventually issuing its own recommendations.
Children under 2 years of age
Maximum recommended screen time: None
It is not recommended to let children under 2 years of age spend time in front of screens. Screen time can hinder the development of vision, language, motor skills, and human relations. It is also not advisable to leave screens on in the background, given that background noise interferes with interactions with children and reduces their ability to pay attention to a game or task at hand.
From an early age, toddlers learn best by interacting with the “real world,” such as manipulating toys and playing with others. As such, they derive no benefit from screens of any kind for any purpose.
Adults are role models to them. It is therefore important for adults to adopt healthy screen habits as early as the birth of their child so that children can emulate adults’ positive behaviours later on.
2- to 5-year-olds
Maximum recommended screen time: No more than one hour a day
Even though children are captivated by the sounds, movement and colours produced on screens, they are generally too young to digest and understand everything they see. In addition, negative impacts on the development of language, vision, motor skills, and human relations have been reported.
Given that screens must be used sparingly by children in this age group, it is important to supervise their use.
Here are a few tips:
- Choose high-quality content: prioritize age-appropriate, interactive, and educational programs.
- Watch with the child (be present and fully engaged in the content).
- Go over the information they view on the screen, help children put it into practice, talk about what they have viewed, and draw connections between the content and their environment and daily lives.
- Inform the child of their permitted screen time (such as one episode, one activity).
- Schedule a screen break after 30 minutes to prevent vision problems.
- Warn the child shortly before turning off the device to prevent arguments.
- For online communication apps such as FaceTime or Skype, make sure to stay with the child and facilitate the conversations by participating in them.
- Use devices in a common area rather than in the child’s bedroom, so that adults can control the content.
5- to 12-year-olds
Maximum recommended screen time: No more than 2 hours a day
As a general rule, no more than two hours per day is recommended for recreational activities. However, this depends on the content (social media, video games, chats, TV, etc.), the context (time of day, multitasking, etc.), and the young person’s individual traits (age, physical and mental health, analytical skills, critical thinking, etc.). Parental supervision must therefore be based on these criteria.
For younger children especially, the content should be educational and the devices should be used in common areas, where adults can control the content, rather than in children’s bedrooms.
Negative impacts on vision, sleep, learning abilities and weight have been reported in 5- to 12-year-olds.
13- to 19-year-olds
Canadian organizations that had adopted a position on the issue no longer suggest a specific length of time for this age group, but recommend analyzing the situation in relation to the relevance of the content (school work, social media, video games, chats, TV, etc.), the context (time of day, multitasking, etc.), and the young person’s individual traits (age, physical and mental health, analytical skills, critical thinking, etc.).
Negative impacts on vision, sleep, learning ability, and weight have been reported in this age group. Other negative impacts on psychological health (body image anxiety, depression, conduct disorders or emotional disorders) have also been identified.
Tool: Pause ton écran
Pause ton écran is a website offering a number of tools (in French only) to improve both individuals’ and families’ digital habits. Here are a few of the themes:
- Family agreements: Practical tools
- Studying from home: How to support children studying from home
- Teen supervision: Teens and screens: 5 strategies for positive supervision
- Assessing your teen’s situation: When to start worrying about your teen’s screen time
- Vacation tips: What are your vacation screen rules?
There are many websites, apps, and devices that help people adopt a healthier lifestyle. Some are listed on the Pause ton écran website.
To receive care or services or to find a compatible professional, contact one of the following resources:
Last update: March 16, 2022