Screen time

Yesterday I was interviewed on the BBC News about the new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health that made headlines for its assertion that there “is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age”.

Commenters have been particularly concerned that the report didn’t highlight what many parents already believe and that it provided limited guidance to families about what they should do to manage their child’s own screen time.

There are a few things to unpick.

Firstly, the report did not contain any new research on the specific topic of screen time. It was a meta analysis of the existing research. The Royal College aren’t saying there isn’t any link between screen time, and, for example mental health problems in teens, just that the current research can’t find any.

In fact, what the report is very clear on is that there is a lack of research in this area and that it’s important more is conducted.

It’s also not true that the report provides no guidance. Admittedly it falls short of saying that a child of a certain age should have a maximum of x many hours screen time per day. However, I feel it’s unlikely that families will ever be given such clear advice. The nature or “quality” of screen time is just too varied.

The report was clear on a few points however:

  • Screen time directly time before bed should be avoided
  • Families should try and engage their children in screen time together
  • Screen time shouldn’t come at the expense of time together as a family

Hoop’s mission is to get children out of the house so they can experience the world around them. And so, we are naturally concerned about any circumstances that prevent children from achieving this.

Screen time is unquestionably one of the barriers we face, and while it’s important that we don’t stoke fear in families who already have a huge amount to deal with, it’s also important that more research is conducted so that we’re able to give them the best advice possible.

Daniel Bower

Product manager turned student. Currently researching algorithms, platforms, interoperability and kill zones at DDH. Read more about me.