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Screen time

Screen time

To better understand

It is a known fact that teenagers (and adults) spend a lot of time in front of their phone, computer, and television screens. It has become part of our lives. Quite often, we do not even realize how much screen time we are getting!

For most teenagers, digital media are a platform for them to explore the world, through social media networks, text messaging, mobile apps, interactive games, and more—and it is something they are particularly good at. Teens use these social networks to develop and maintain relationships with other people, who are mostly family members and “real-life” friends. However, they may interact online with people they know less well or with whom they interact with exclusively online.

While digital media come with many advantages, they remain a source of concern, and even conflict, for families. The risks we currently know about are mostly associated with excessive screen time or negative online experiences. See the table for details.

Right now, the most promising ways to prevent these risks appear to be:

  1. Learning the Internet safety rules;
  2. Developing respectful, empathic online behaviours;
  3. Moderating screen time.

Benefits and risks of using digital media


Exploring and affirming one’s identity

Experimenting with social norms

Searching for and learning new information

Developing skills





Maintaining ties with family and friends

Building a social network

Sense of security

Potential risks

Exposure to inappropriate content


Cyber exploitation


Fraud and identity theft

Psychological distress, anxiety, and impact on mood

Mental health problems

Problematic use or cyberaddiction

Lack of quality sleep

Poor diet

Decrease in physical activity

Screen time and teens

In Quebec

  • According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, in 2015, more than 60% of teens aged 12-17 spent more than 15 hours a week on screens during their free time (excluding time spent doing schoolwork)1.
  • According to a 2017 survey by Université Laval’s Équipe de recherche sur la sécurité et la violence dans les écoles québécoises, almost 13% of Quebec teens, in grades 7 to 11 have been asked to send an intimate photo or video of themselves.

In the Montérégie region

  • 6 % of teenagers experienced cyberbullying in 2016-2017.

Sources :
1 Du Mays, Danny and Monique Bordeleau. (2015). Les activités sédentaires chez les jeunes : qui les pratique et quelle en est l’évolution depuis 2007? Zoom santé, no. 50, p. 1-8. Source: http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/sante/bulletins/zoom-sante-201504.pdf.

2 Beaumont, C. [et al.] (2018). Une école où il fait bon vivre : mise en contexte de bonnes pratiques. Conference papers produced as part of the e Journée d’étude annuelle de la Chaire de recherche Bien être à l’école et prévention de la violence. Faculty of education, Université Laval, Québec, Canada. Source: www.violence-ecole.ulaval.ca.

Is your teen often stuck to a screen? Don’t worry, you are not alone. An expert answers questions about the use of screen.

To better support


  • Monitor your teens’ friendships and activities on social media and online gaming platforms;
  • Discuss the various benefits and risks associated with using social media, video games, and other electronic media;
  • Talk about respectful and empathic online behaviours.


  • Agree on screen time rules that apply to the whole family (amount of time, times of day, permitted activities, age for starting to use social media, locations in the house, conditions);
  • Configure your computers, smart devices, and Wi-Fi network: password, security filter, antivirus software, privacy settings, disable location tracking, etc. Do not hesitate to ask your teen for help if you get stuck!
  • Before you resort to limiting Internet access electronically, start by having frank discussions and setting clear rules.


  • Encourage your teen to think critically and be responsible about their screen time and online activities;
  • Encourage them to think about the repercussions of what they post online;
  • Suggest that they think about their online friends: Who are they? How well do they really know them? Who can they trust, and why?

At home

  • Agree on “screen time-free” moments for the whole family, such as during meals or family activities. Take these times to talk to each other;
  • Avoid using screens, including smart phones, in the bedrooms (both for teens and adults!).

Tips and tricks

Here are some tips to help you cut down on screen time:

  • Switch phones to vibrate and turn off notifications.
  • Turn off the autoplay feature on video sites.
  • Put all phones in a basket at mealtimes.
  • Turn off the Wi-Fi at night.
  • ETC. !

Pssst! These tips will work better if you take the time to discuss them as a family!

In brief

  • There are countless benefits to digital media, but also health and safety risks that teenagers need to learn to avoid.
  • Encouraging teenagers to take responsibility for their digital media use and screen time helps them become self-sufficient.
  • Set an example by following the family rules on screen time.

Resources and practical tools

1. For support:

If you are concerned about a situation, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:

Community organizations: family centre, youth centre, etc.

Some community organizations offer support programs for parents of teenagers. Call your local organization for information.

School staff members

2. To learn more:

Pause ton écran website

MediaSmarts: Canada’s centre for digital and media literacy (funded by public and private sector sponsors, including telecommunications companies)

Prevention of online violence and exploitation:

If you fear for your teen’s or your own safety, call 911 or your local police department.

The police department can help you with cases of cyberbullying, sexting and the sharing of sexually explicit images, cyber exploitation, fraud, identity theft, etc.

Latest updates : February 2020

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