7 January 2019
It is interesting to read today that paediatricians say there’s a lack of evidence that screen use for children is harmful. The advice is that parents should be less worried about the effect of screen time on their child.
The caveat – a checklist.
The research goes on to make recommendations. These highlight the impact that mismanagement of screen time has on young people’s health and wellbeing. For example, the research recommends that screens are not used in the hour before bedtime, and that it is important that the use of devices does not replace sleep, exercising and family time.
In essence, this seems to be the same advice that we’ve known for a long time.
Whilst The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) says that there is no good evidence that time in front of screens is ‘toxic’, the evidence showed links between more screen time and obesity and depression. Whether screen time is a cause of obesity and depression, however, remains to be seen.
It is obvious though that the more time spent buried in screens, the less time there is. Time for family, for exercise and for space to let the mind wander.
Children and young people have this extraordinary power to dream big, to imagine anything and everything. I do wonder how keeping the brain constantly busy with information from social media, games and such, impacts a young person’s ability to find the creative spark that they would otherwise have.
The overall impact
It’s also well discussed that social media has an impact on mental health across the board – for young people and adults alike. We are exposed to more information than ever before, so there’s no wonder many are feeling overwhelmed. In research last year, the Chief Executive of Royal Society for Public Health, Shirley Cramer CBE, noted that social media and mental health are ‘intrinsically linked’.
Perhaps this is also linked to the lack of quality communication when messaging apps or social media are the norm. Screen communication is simply no replacement for face-to-face interaction.
Equally, screen time is the greatest distraction from leading an active life. There is less motivation to get outdoors, to move around when you’re not finding that you’re ever bored. Constant stimulation from new information, scrolling and clicking, can easily take up an hour before you know it. And what have you gained in that hour?
Ultimately, screens are incredibly valuable. We’re able to access huge swathes of information and reach people across the world. The key is in how this is managed and balanced.