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Quebec not ruling out legislation to limit screen time for youth

Quebec Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant speaks at a summit in Quebec City, Friday, September 15, 2023. LA PRESSE CANADIENNE/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant speaks at a summit in Quebec City, Friday, September 15, 2023. LA PRESSE CANADIENNE/Jacques Boissinot

The Legault government has not ruled out legislating the use of screens by young people and families, Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant suggested in a speech in Montreal on Monday morning.

Speaking at the International Symposium on Screen Use and Health, Carmant announced that the government would soon begin working on the second Quebec strategy on screen use and the health of young people.

"We want a version that's very much adapted to Quebec's reality," said Carmant. "And I'll tell you right now, nothing is off the table. If we have to legislate, we'll legislate."

He gave no further details on possible legislation but stressed that "it's all a question of striking the right balance between raising awareness and developing the digital skills of young people."

In 2020, 59 per cent of Quebec youth between 13 and 17 used the internet for more than 10 hours a week, compared with 27 per cent of those aged six to 12.

According to data from the Enquête québécoise sur le tabac, l'alcool, la drogue et le jeu chez les élèves du secondaire (Quebec survey on tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling among secondary school students), 18 per cent of them often or very often have trouble stopping when surfing the internet. The survey also found that 10 per cent of young people reported having often or very often tried to spend less time online without succeeding.

The data also showed that 45.5 per cent of high school students would exceed the recommendation associated with their age group when it comes to screen use in their free time. This applies to both passive use (watching series, films or videos) and active or interactive use (video games, chatting or surfing the web).

"We absolutely must support our young people in their use of these technologies so that they can understand the risks and use them appropriately. This is an important part of what I see as our role as a government ... to get them to think about their own use of screens," said Carmant.

He emphasized improving mental health data "for both young and old."

The minister pointed out that current research shows that social media networks are transforming the way people perceive themselves and that this is worsening anxiety and mental health problems in general, "not to mention the sleep-related complications for our young people who use social media well after bedtime," he added.

The Legault government has already tackled the issues posed by screens in schools. As of this year, Quebec became the second province after Ontario to ban cellphones in the classroom. "I think that was the right solution, but there are a lot of other decisions that need to be made fairly quickly," Carmant said.

In the Stratégie québécoise sur l'utilisation des écrans et la santé des jeunes 2022-2025, the emphasis was mainly on raising awareness. It said that children under two years old should never be exposed to screens and that after this age, screen use should be limited to one hour a day until they start school.


The Canadian Press health content is funded through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 8, 2024. Top Stories

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