Early Learning and Elementary Screen Time
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Early learning and Elementary- February 2021
The 3's of children's media use
The advances in technology mean today's parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen time for children. With screens virtually everywhere, controlling a child's screen time can be challenging. To complicate matters, some screen time can be educational for children as well as support their social development. So how do you manage your child's screen time? Read on for some useful guidelines and recommendations!

  Guidelines set by experts
The World Health Organization’s review of dozens of screen time studies led it to announce in April 2019 its own guidelines of zero hours for kids under two and one hour or less for kids two to four. This advice is similar to that given by the Canadian Paediatric Society, with recommendations of one hour maximum for kids two to five and zero hours for those under two. As your child grows, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work as well. You'll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what's appropriate.
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Prioritize healthy lifestyle choices as part of your child's regular routine; sleep, healthy nutrition, exercise, outdoor time and safe face to face social interactions. All are essential for children's optimal brain development and mental health and wellness. The more time children spend on these activities the less time there will be for media!
 Family Media Plan
Households can create a family media plan that establishes boundaries around screen time. A few foundational rules to consider: 

Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed time. The light emitted by tablets and phones affects the way our body produces melatonin, a hormone responsible for “telling” the body to rest. 

No screens during meals. The dinner table provides a great opportunity to connect as family members. Children or parents being on devices can distract from the family time that we all need and crave. Enjoy a device free dinner
No screens during family fun times.
In a 2015 survey by AVG Technologies, one-third of children reported feeling unimportant when their parents looked at their phones during meals or when playing together.

Once boundaries have been set, enforce them. Consistency helps children know what to expect. If you continually turn off screens one hour before bed it doesn’t come as a surprise to your child and you may see fewer behavioural outbursts as a result.

Read more about creating a family media plan.
The  3c  Guidelines
Focusing on how much time your child spends in front of a screen reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when in reality it is much more nuanced. 

Another way to approach your children's media use is in terms of who they are, what they’re watching and how you’re interacting with them. This is called the the three C's: child, content and context.
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Content, context and the child



You know your child better than anyone else and are therefore the best person to decide what and how much media use is the right amount. For example, if your child is anxious, avoid the news or scary videos and movies. If your child likes music, find programming that incorporates singing, like a musical with a soundtrack. Think about what your child is inspired by and might want to learn more about. If you have more than one child, you already know, what works for one, might not work for another.



In terms of content, all screen use is not equal. It is more useful to focus on how screens are being used and the quality of the media.

Organizations such as Common Sense Media offer age-based recommendations for movies, television, books, apps and games and can be a trustworthy starting place to look for ideas or to learn more about the media your kids may be using. 
Preview programs, games and apps before allowing your child to view or play with them.

Use parental controls to block or filter internet content with the longer term goal of having your children learn to manage this on their own. Parents Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls
Quality content actively involves kids and provides opportunities for them to learn, explore and grow. This may include: 

Being creative. Drawing on an iPad, taking creative photos or making music.
Exploring interests. Children can learn about about dinosaurs, starfish, birds, or thousands of other topics.

Learning while playing games. They can learn about space, brush up their math skills or learn a new language.

Using apps and games to keep fit and active.

Watching age appropriate television shows that educate, entertain and encourage critical thinking.

Reading eBooks and book apps. 

Are you Web aware? A checklist for parents


Finally, context — how you interact with your children around the media — matters! Screen time shouldn't always be alone time. Co-view, co-play and co-engage with your children when they are using screens—it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It's a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette.
 Watch a show with them; you will have the opportunity to introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives—and guidance. Don't just monitor them online—interact with them, so you can understand what they are doing and be a part of it.

When other responsibilities make it difficult to engage make sure your child is close by during screen time so that you can supervise their activities and ask them regularly what programs, games and apps they have played with during the day.
Media Literacy
As your children get older encourage them to think critically about what they see on their screens.

Ask them to consider whether everything on the internet is accurate.

Does your child know how to tell if a website is trustworthy?

Help your child understand that media is made by humans with different points of view.

Explain that many types of technology collect data to send ads to users in order to sell products.

Are you Web aware? A checklist for kids ages 9-12
At some point your child will most likely be exposed to content that you haven't approved and devices without internet filters. Talk to your child about the situations that could occur and the behavior you expect.

Children today can stumble onto pornography very easily. Consider having developmentally appropriate conversations about sex before this happens. If they hear it from you then they’ll be less likely to turn to the Internet for answers, and they’ll be more likely to ask you to explain what they see online.

Smart Online Search Tips

Signs of problematic media use
According to Canadian Paediatric Society. signs of problematic use include:
complaining about being bored or unhappy without access to devices

negative emotions after using devices 

challenging behavior over screen limits and screen use that interferes with daily routines

The occasional occurrence of these signs may be expected and shouldn’t raise alarm.
Do as I do
Like anything in life, the best way to teach kids about having a healthy relationship with electronic devices is to be the example. When adults model healthy relationships with devices to their kids, it’s a lot easier for them to learn. You can be a good role model  by finding the appropriate balance of media and tech use in your own life.

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Children Are Telling Parents To Put Down Their Devices
Media and digital devices are a central part of our world today and if used moderately and appropriately, the benefits can be great. Children are growing up in a digital world, and it's important to help them learn healthy concepts of media use. Parents play an integral role in teaching these skills.
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