Does Adult Screen Time Impact our Children?

Featured member: Kathy Knight-Robinson, RECE, Program Supervisor - Ontario Early Years Ottawa South, Andrew Fleck Child Care Services


New research is constantly surfacing about the adverse effects of screen time on children’s health. Awareness campaigns around screen time guidelines and recommendations for children are promoted by multiple public health units, child development experts and children’s advocacy groups. The current recommendations are:

  • Children under 2:  Screen time is not recommended.
  • Children between the ages of 2 and 4: Limit screen time to 1 hour a day. Less is better.
  • Older Children and Youth (5 to 17):  Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours/day[i]

 But what about our own screen time?   

We have all seen it happen: A young child, sometimes even a baby, at the park, in a restaurant, or in a waiting room, trying without success to get their parent’s attention while their mom has her head down, captivated by her phone. As adults, we need to look at the consequences of our own screen time and the mixed messages that we may be sending to our children.


The digital age has undeniably brought parents many benefits:

  • They and their children can connect with far away relatives;
  •  A weird looking rash can be googled in an instant;
  • Parents can connect with child development experts or other families on parenting blogs;
  • And parents have easy access to the latest child development findings  and trends

 et, there can be negative effects if our screen time infiltrates the time we spend with our children; our relationships and our role in their development can be seriously altered. From the day they are born, babies look to the adults in their life to respond to their needs, and learn through interactions with them.  But how will babies learn social cues if there is less and less interaction between family members? How many conversations are missed when the TV is on in the background and captures mom’s attention instead? What success or milestone did dad miss because he was texting?


As service providers, we can assist families by sharing information about the vital role daily interactions play in building children’s brains and social skills. We can take care to offer parent chats or online learning only during hours that children are in school or sleeping. We can also model face to face interactions instead of sending all communications to families through email.  One promising idea for reducing adult screen time when they are in their child’s presence would be to limit it to the same as the child’s “time”. Imagine the potential opportunities for connection and strong attachment if children’s recommended screen time guidelines (2 hours or less) existed for adults too!


We owe it to our children to support all families in ensuring that adult screen time does not become a distraction from our children or a barrier to meaningful interaction with them.

[i] Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)