No, you won't “scrape” your kids with one more hour of Paw Patrol

No, you won't “scrape your kids with one more hour of Paw Patrol

The pandemic has sent screen time skyrocketing for more 85% of young people aged 5 to 17, indicates a survey conducted by the firm Léger.

Most children have literally grown up in front of screens: they crawl faster than their shadow (and their parents) and make updates on the computer without even asking us. Is it serious, doctor? 

As soon as they come back from school, they take over the screens. The oldest is playing online with his friends (whom he has rubbed shoulders with all day in class) and the other is having his snack in front of Netflix. A habit they also have during pedagogical days and Sunday mornings.  

We are a long way from the advice of the Canadian Pediatric Society, which recommends less than an hour of screen time a day for toddlers and no screens at all for those under two.

Did you know?

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends the following screen times: none before age 2, less than an hour a day for children 2-5, and less 2 hours a day for 5 to 17 year olds. Standards that are outdated, according to several experts.  

But before getting hives, you should know that these standards are considered outdated by many experts. “Screens are part of our lives and they also contribute to the development of young people. There are not only negative impacts, ”says Emmanuelle Parent, doctoral student in communication and co-founder of the Center for Online Emotional Intelligence (CIEL). 

Sorry, the guilt! 

At the beginning of January, the school and daycare being closed, Carolanne* had to, in spite of herself, “Parker his children in front of the TV”, she illustrates with emotion. “I was having meetings on Zoom, and my spouse was working away.” She is far from the only one. 

The pandemic has caused screen time to jump among more than 85% of young people aged 5 to 17, indicates a survey carried out by the firm Léger last fall*. Managing screens is a source of conflict in 44% of families surveyed. Should we be worried about this increase? “Yes, if it harms other spheres of activity. For example, when your child isolates himself, no longer goes to his soccer practices or if you buy peace with tablet time”, warns Ms. Parent, in a podcast on the use of social media. 

If these behaviors do not manifest themselves, parents should not give in to feelings of guilt for one more hour of Paw Patrol, adds psychoeducator and author Stéphanie Deslauriers. In his friendly book The Happiness of Being an Imperfect Parent, she promotes indulgence and acceptance of parental imperfection, with humor and rigor (still!).  

Because not everything has to be perfect, and especially not the management of children's screens when, let's face it, we have difficulty managing our own screen time.  

The reality of families today oday, between working from home, gym classes and a runny nose, requires compromise, improvisation and flexibility.  

Nor does it mean that the child should have their eyes glued to their screen 24 hours a day. Rather, it is recommended to gradually introduce healthy, balanced and controlled use. 

No, you won't “scrape” your kids with an extra hour-of Paw Patrol

Photo: Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

The benefits of screens

Screens are not just pixelated monsters. They can also help develop critical thinking, certain skills or passions. Of course, a passive screen (for example, watching TV) does not have the same social dimension as those that require interaction, where the child is invited to think, move or be creative. 

However, relaxing in front of a family movie also has its benefits. This allows you to feel good, relieve stress and access imaginary worlds. Again, it's all about dosage and balance.  

No cable, no cell!  

Many families limit not only the time spent in front of screens, but also their availability. This is the case with Nathalie Rondeau who, like many parents, cut the cable. The television is only for watching movies or playing video games. Before turning on a screen, her 11-year-old boy must have done his lessons, a household chore or played outside. “It becomes a reward,” she says.  

The computer is also useful in her learning. “Since he has ADHD, it allows him to concentrate better and calm down too,” says the mother, who is also a primary school teacher.  

Lead by example 

What if we started by managing our own screens? Leading by example is a great way to positively influence our children. Turning off the cell phone during meals or family evenings is also good for us.  

The toolbox 

  • The Quebec company Belles Combines offers the “Before turning on a screen” kit, which includes a task chart and magnetic patches so that children can manage their screen time themselves.  
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  • An alternative to screens? Subscribe your child to a paper magazine (Les Débrouillards, Les Explorateurs, J'aime lire…) or to a DIY workshop (Pandacraft) that he will receive in the mail each month.  
  • Your youngster tells you that he only played an hour? Check his actual usage time by activating the settings on his phone. Better yet: download a parental control application (for example OurPact or FamilyTime) in order to program its hours of use or to block access to certain sites and content. 
  • For younger children, use a motivation board or tokens so that they can better materialize the time allotted for the screens. It will become a well-deserved privilege!  
  • Want to watch TV? Opt for a show or movie in English. Even English teachers recommend it to get familiar with intonations and accents. 
  • Learning with screens? We love Alloprof's games and applications, which allow children of all ages to develop their academic skills. Our favorite for math is Fin Lapin. 

* Source: Léger survey of 1002 parents of children aged 6 to 17 and 801 teenagers aged 14 to 17, from October 18 to November 2, 2021. 
* Fictitious name 

Are you okay? She is good! The series “Parents à boutte” aims to make families who are out of breath feel guilty in the context of the pandemic. On the program: advice, updates, and toolboxes on a ton of themes. To be continued in the Inspiration section.

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