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Screen Time

What is Screen Time?

Screen time is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time can be an element of a sedentary lifestyle*. 

  • 51% of 5-17 year olds and 76% of 3-4 year olds are engaging in more screen time than is recommended by the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for recreational screen-based sedentary behaviours (No more than 2 hours of screen time per day.) [1]


  • Most adults (68%) hold the view that children should not be allowed more than 2 hours of TV viewing and computer use on school days while fewer adults (44%) thought this screen limit is needed on weekend days. However, few adults themselves adhere to this screen limit. Strategies to reduce screen time in children may also need to target adult screen use, as they are examples as well as being affected by so much use. [2] 

  • In a recent study, children averaged 8.6 hours of sedentary time (SED), and 54% of children failed to meet screen time (ST) guidelines (no more than 2 hours of screen time per day). Boys reported higher ST, were less likely to meet ST guidelines and had higher BMI scores than girls. However, girls engaged in significantly more SED than boys. There are many easily modifiable common correlations between SED and ST such as removing TV from the bedroom, and others may require more intense behavioral interventions such as increasing physical activity. This may help to improve lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity, reduce excessive time spent on SED and ST, and ultimately reduce the risk of preventable chronic diseases such as obesity worldwide. [3]  

  • High screen time is associated with poorer mental health and academic outcomes. Being physically active did not result in higher self-esteem in the presence of high screen time among males. The implications are that greater promotion of physical activity and reduction of screen time is necessary to improve mental health outcomes among youth. [4]  

  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average of 9-11 hours of sleep per night for children aged 6-13 years old is recommended. The rising use of electronic entertainment and communication devices (EECDs) by children have shown to play a role in shorter sleep duration, poor sleep quality and sleep efficiency. [5]  

  • Cell phone access and its frequent use during the hour before sleep has the greatest impact on good sleep quality, decreasing its quality by 36%. [6]  

  • In a study to investigate the interplay between screen time (ST), sleep duration, outdoor play and having a TV in the bedroom, it was evidenced that short sleep duration, long ST and a TV in the bedroom were associated with the presence of overweight in preschool children. [7]  

  • High TV viewing is a mediating lifestyle behaviour in the association between TV in the bedroom and adiposity (obesity) in Canadian girls, especially. Canadian boys and girls with a TV in their bedroom are shown to have higher percentage of Body Fat, watch more TV and have unhealthy diets. [8]  

  • Parental modeling of higher screen time is associated with higher screen time among toddlers and children, and in turn, at least one electronic device is in toddler or child’s bedroom. On the contrary, higher parental screen time limiting practices (both for self and child) results in lower screen time among toddlers and children. [9]  


  * Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia and Wikipedia)

  1. “ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth” (2018)].

  2. Schoeppe, S., Rebar, AL., Short, CE., Alley, S., Van Lippevelde, W., Vandelanotte, C. “How is adults’ screen time behaviour influencing their views on screen time restrictions for children? A cross-sectional study.” BMC Public Health Vol 16 (Mar 2016); 201].

  3. LeBlanc AG, Katmarzyk PT, Barreira TV, Broyles ST, Chaput J-P, Church TS. et al. “Correlates of total sedentary time and screen time in 9-11 year old children around the world: The International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment. PLOS One Vol. 10 Issue 6 (May 2015)].

  4. Trinh, L., Wong, B., Faulkner, G.E. “The independent and interactive associations of screen time and physical activity on mental health, school connectedness and academic achievement among population-based sample of youth.” J Can Acad Child Adolescent Psychiatry Vol.21 Issue 1 (Dec 2015): 17-24].

  5. “How much sleep do we really need?” Foundation NS (2016) Source:; Hale L., Guan, S. “Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: a systematic review.” Sleep Med Rev. Vol 21 (May 2015): 50-58].

  6. Dube, N., Khan, K., Loehr, S., Chu, Y., Veugelers, P. “The use of entertainment and communication technologies before sleep could affect sleep and weight status: a population-based study among children.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Vol. 14 Issue 97 (July 2017): 1-14].

  7. Sijtsma, A, Koller, M., Sauer, P., Corpeleijn, E. “Television, sleep, outdoor play and BMI in young children:the GECKO Drenthe cohort.” European Journal of Pediatrics Vol. 174 Issue 5 (May 2015): 631-639].

  8. Borgheses, M., Tremblay, M., Katsmarzyk, P., Tudor-Locke, C., Schuna, J, Leduc, G., Boyer, C., LeBlanc, A., C, JP. “Mediating role of television time, diet patterns, physical activity and sleep duration in the association between television in the bedroom and adiposity in 10 year-old children.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Vol. 12 Issue 60 (May 2015)].

  9. Lee, E., Hesketh, K., Rhodes, R., Rinaldi, C., Spence, J., Carson, V. “Role of parental and environmental characteristics in toddlers’ physical activity and screen time: Bayesian analysis of structural equation models.” International Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Vol.15 Issue 17 (Jan 2018)].

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