Instead of obsessing over the hours children spend using devices, experts now suggest considering how kids are using them.

Some key points from an article by Dave McGinn, Globe and Mail, January 16, 2021 – Why it’s time to feel less guilty about screen time during COVID-19

1. The amount of time children are spending on screens has increased dramatically over the course of the pandemic. But with the role that screens now play in children’s lives, from online learning to socializing with friends, paediatricians, obesity researchers and other experts — some of whom helped establish Canada’s screen time guidelines of no screen time for children under 2, less than one hour as day for children 2 to 5 and no more than two hours a day for children 5 to 17 — are calling for a fundamental change in how we think about screens. Instead of obsessing over screen time, we should think about how we use screens, they say.

2.  “There’s a huge shift in just thinking about screen time,” said Dr. Michelle Ponti, a London, Ontario-based paediatrician and chair of the Digital Health Task Force for the Canadian Paediatric Society. “Now more than ever there is a distinction between screen time and screen use.”

3. There is plenty of evidence showing how screens can harm children, from contributing to obesity to hindering cognitive development.

4.  “COVID was like screen time on steroids,” Dr. Tremblay said. He is the director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

5.  Parents need to be on the lookout for how screens may be interfering with schoolwork, physical activity, sleep and mental health. (Other red flags are described in the article.)

6.  The key is to think beyond mere screen time to finer distinctions of how kids are using screens. There are a number of tips from Dr. Ponti.

7.  While we should use screens in moderation, parents need not obsess over screen time said Dr. Talwar, a professor in the department of educational and counselling psychology at McGill University. The role screens play in our lives has changed, and so too should questions we ask of our screens, she said.

“It’s really thinking about whether this is meeting your physical, mental and social needs,” Dr. Talwar said.  “Is it meeting our needs?  Does it support our healthy well-being?  And if it does it’s fine.”