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As much as we love tech and software, spending too much time staring at screens is something many of us are likely guilty of.... The questions you need to consider about your children’s screen time

As much as we love tech and software, spending too much time staring at screens is something many of us are likely guilty of.

Now leading paediatricians have spoken out about children’s screen time. The guidance, shared as the BMJ Open medical journal published a new review, has prompted a surge of debate.

Experts believe that parents should “worry less” about their children’s screen habits. Although the review recommends that devices are not used in the hour before sleep, it avoids setting limits. This is because it is argued there is “little evidence” to suggest screen use for children is harmful.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) published advice for youngsters under the age of 18. Most of the evidence has been based on television screen time, though it has also taken note of other rising screen use like phones and computers.

It highlighted that there is “not enough evidence” that time in front of a screen is “toxic” to health. Though the first ever guidance on children’s screen time to be published in the UK has a clear message. It tells parents to build screen time around family activities, not the other way around.

According to the experts, screen time should be based on the child’s developmental age and individual need. Screen time should not displace positive activities like socialising, sleep and exercise too, they argue. The guidance comes following years of people making ‘negative associations’ between screen time and poor health.

‘Too much screen time’ studies limited, say RCPCH

“Let parents be parents”, said Dr Max Davie, officer for Health Promotion for RCPCH, in a statement.

He added: “Technology is an integral part of the lives of children and young people. They use it for communication, entertainment, and increasingly in education.

“Studies in this area are limited but during our research analysis we couldn’t find any consistent evidence for any specific health or wellbeing benefits of screen time. Although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are casual or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time.

Children are engaged with technology more than ever before.

“To help us develop a better understanding of this I urge both more and better research, particularly on newer uses of digital media, such as social media.”

The RCPCH has published a series of questions which aim to help families make decisions about their personal screen time use. These include:

  • Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
  • Is your family’s screen time under control?
  • Does screen time interfere with sleep?
  • Are you able to control snacking during screen time?

Advice for concerned parents

The BBC, using the RCPCH as a source, has shared some top tips for parents who are concerned about screen time. Advice includes:

  • Meal times can be good opportunities for screen-free zones
  • If children’s screen time use seems out of control, parents should consider intervening
  • Younger children need face-to-face social interactions and screens are no substitute for this
  • Parents should think about their own screen use, including whether they use devices unconsciously too often.

For further information visit RCPCH