Screen Time in the Early Years

Posted: January 2, 2024

In today’s technological age, everywhere we turn there is a digital screen of some sort; be it cellphones, tablets or televisions. They are nearly impossible to avoid but regardless of the accessibility and commonplace of screens, parents and caregivers still need to be aware of the effects on a child’s development, and in contrast, the potential benefits, too.

Guidelines for Screen Time

The following are guidelines set out by the Canadian Pediatric Society (Ponti, 2022):

  • Screen time for children younger than 2 years is not recommended apart from video-chatting with caring adults. There is no evidence to support introducing technology at an early age.
  • For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or sedentary screen time to about 1 hour or less per day.
  • Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of childcare 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 stimulating and melatonin-suppressing effects (para. 33).

Risks and Benefits of Screen Time

Developmental risks in children under the age of 5 associated with screen exposure include language, cognition and foundational executive function skills (para. 10). However, on the flip side, research also shows potential associated benefits when engaging with quality television (age-appropriate and timing) and interactions such as video chats with family members. CPS describes some other benefits to include literacy skill development with a responsive adult interacting alongside them (para. 8) and psychosocial benefits such as learning “antiviolence attitudes, empathy, tolerance and respect” (para. 16).

Final Thoughts

Most of us can agree, or at least I know for myself I’ve seen an increase in time spent in front of a screen and am aware to some degree of its effect on me. I notice I can be less motivated, at times easily irritated and even experience brain fog. As an adult I’m able to recognize how I’m being affected and triggered. However, most children, especially those in the early years, aren’t equipped and capable of noticing and naming what they are feeling. It’s up to caring adults to be vigilant and aware of the environment we are creating for our children.


Ponti, Michelle, (2022). Screen time and preschool children: Promoting health and development in a digital world. Retrieved from Screen time and preschool children: Promoting health and development in a digital world | Canadian Paediatric Society (cps.ca)