How much screen time is dangerous for infants and toddlers?

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4 years) suggest that children under 2 year should not have any interactions with screens. No more than 1 hour a day of screen-viewing is recommended for kids aged 2-4 —less is better.Why? Although not all sedentary behaviour is harmful—like reading or storytelling with a caregiver—excessive screen time before age five is linked with language delays, reduced attention and lower school readiness.But is it really that bad? Well, it’s not good. Research says that there are no proven benefits to screen time for kids under 5 years.


  • Language development:Research examining TV exposure has demonstrated associations between heavy early screen exposure (more than 2 hours/day by infants younger than 12 months in one study) and significant language delays. High exposure to background TV has been found to negatively affect language use and acquisition, attention, decision-making and thinking in children younger than 5 years. It also reduces the amount and quality of parent–child interaction and distracts from play.
  • Psychosocial development: Recent evidence suggests an association between elevated levels of TV exposure at age 2 and victimization, social isolation, aggression and anti-social behaviours in childhood.
  • Cognitive development: Some studies associate prolonged TV viewing with lower cognitive abilities, especially related to short-term memory, early reading and math skills and language development.
  • Difficulty sleeping: The more time children spend in front of a screen – particularly in the evening – the less sleep they get. This holds true for infants and toddlers.


Children only begin to understand content by the end of their second year—this is different from being able to imitate actions they see, which they can do as early as 6 months. Infants and toddlers are unlikely to learn from TV at this age as they have difficulty transferring new learning from screen to real life.

By contrast, they learn intensely through face-to-face interaction with parents and caregivers. Early learning is easier and more enriching when experienced interactively with real people and in real space.


No parent is perfect, and screens are everywhere. But, there are things you can do to minimize the number of screens your infant or toddler sees. After all, the best kind of medicine is preventative medicine.

Download the PDF here for some tips to help you minimize screen time.

And for even more information, check out The Canadian Paediatric Society’s Position Statement to physicians that explains why parents and caregivers should not only minimize screen time for their young children, but how use it mindfully themselves.

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