Pathways to Wellness

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Screen time

People of all ages are spending more of their lives at home, work and school in front of a television, computer, or game console screen.   And here we are providing you with information about screen time by posting it on a website!    Like it or not, technology is a part of our everyday lives and we all need to be thoughtful about how we use it.

Screen time takes away from time that we might otherwise be physically active.   Recent research has shown that long periods of inactivity in front of a screen have a negative impact on our health, even when we are meeting the recommended daily requirements for physical activity.  Our bodies are just not meant for sitting.

According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011), sedentary activity is a "distinct class of behaviours characterized by little physical movement and low energy expenditures. "

Sitting in front of a television, computer or game console are examples of sedentary activity.

The Canadian Guidelines on Sedentary Activity recommend limiting screen time as follows:

  • 2 hours per day or less for 5-17 year olds
  • 1 hour per day or less for children between the ages of 2-4
  • No screen time for children under 2 years of age

A survey of Grade 6-10 students in Yukon conducted in 2009 asked questions about screen time.  The good news is that Yukon kids spend less time in front of a television, computer or game console than their Canadian peers. 

However, over 50% of Yukon students report watching two or more hours of TV every weekday, and more on weekends.  And this doesn't include playing on a computer or a games console.

It's not easy to limit screen time - surfing the net, chatting on line with friends, and video games are fun, and "everyone is doing it."   The first step may be to track how much time everyone in the family - adults included - spend in front of a screen.   (Tracking Chart ]

Other ideas to reduce screen time include:

  • Encourage everyone to spend more time being active - they will have more energy, develop more skills and have more fun with friends if they are being active.
  • Set a good example.  Limit your screen time to less than 2 hours per day at home.
  • Take all screens out of bedrooms, and turn off the television during meal times.  See Families that eat together.
  • Keep a running list of other activities when kids complain, "there's nothing to do."
  • Avoid using computer, TV, or game time as a reward or punishment.   When screen time is used as discipline, it increases the value of screen time making it more attractive and desired.
  • What about active video games?   See Active Video Games.

Screen time isn't all bad.  In this thought provoking video clip, Dr. Christine Carter looks at how screen time can serve educational or social purposes.  She also highlights the link between video games which portray sex or violence, and aggressive behaviour in children. 


Technology is here to stay - by being thoughtful about how we use it, and how much time we spend at screens, we can find a better balance between being physically active and using technology.

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