New guidance for parents and carers looking at screen time

07 Jan 2019 Becca Cawthorne

Following research released earlier this year looking at young people’s use of screen time, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) have looked at the effect that screen time can have on the lives of young people, and gave some key questions parents can ask to help them consider their family’s use of screens.

The research asked young people aged 11-24 from across the UK about their views on screen time, it found that:

  • 88% of young people said screen time had a negative impact on their sleep
  • 35% said screen time had a negative impact on their mood
  • On average per day young people spend: 2.5 hours on a tablet or computer, 3 hours on their phone, and 2 hours watching TV

It is important to note that this association between screen time and the above behaviours does not necessarily imply a causative link.

Following the research, the RCPCH has advised that there is no recommended amount of screen time to adhere to, families should negotiate screen time limits with their children based upon the needs of an individual child, the ways in which screens are used and the degree to which use of screens appears to displace (or not) physical and social activities and sleep.

The RCPCH also advises that devices should be avoided in the hour before bed to promote healthy sleep and has provided the following checklist to help parents and carers make decisions about their family’s screen time use:

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

Dr Russel Viner, President of the RCPCH commented on screen time, stating:

“One size doesn’t fit all, parents need to think about what’s useful and helpful for their child.

“Parents should consider their own use of screens, if screen time is controlled in their family, and if excessive use is affecting their child’s development and everyday life.”

David Wright, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre and South West Grid for Learning says:

“The UK Safer Internet Centre welcomes the RCPCH’s review of research into the impact of screen time on the wellbeing of young people. Our mission is to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people, which includes balancing the use of technology with other positive activities. The RCPCH’s guide includes useful advice for parents on having conversations with their children, allowing families to establish their own rules and boundaries.”

Screen time resources to help you

At the UKSIC we have created a range of resources to help parents manage their children’s screen time. These include:

  • Screen Time Boundaries Hot Topic
    This resource gives top tips for parents and carers about screen time, as well as highlighting advice from experts and research with parents.
  • Young people and screen time – guide for parents and carers
    Adapted from the Norwegian media authority by South West Grid for Learning, this resource looks at how parents and carers can help children get off to a good start using digital devices.
  • Family Agreement Template
    A family agreement is a great way to start a conversation with your whole family about how you all use the internet and discuss together how to behave in a positive way when online at home, at school or at a friend’s house.

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