The Chief Medical Officers have today published their independent systematic map of evidence on screen and social media use in children and young people, and recommended next steps and advice for parents and carers.
They have concluded that the published scientific research is currently insufficient to support evidence-based guidelines on screen time, but there is enough basis to warrant a precautionary approach and action by schools, government and technology companies.
Calling for a duty of care to be established and for a voluntary code of conduct to be agreed ahead of government legislation, the UK Chief Medical Officers have also published advice, giving tips on how to have a healthy balance with screen time. This is based on evidence around activities that are important for healthy child development such as sleep, exercise and education.
They recommend the following actions that industry and government should take including:
Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Time spent online can be of great benefit to children and young people, providing opportunities for learning and skills development, as well as allowing young people to find support and information. But we need to take a precautionary approach and our advice will support children to reap these benefits and protect them from harm.
“Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care. They must make more effort to keep their users safe from harm, particularly children and young people.”
Social media and screen-based activities can be hugely beneficial for children and young people, encouraging social interaction, education, and providing easy access to support and information but it should not intrude on activities which are proven to support healthy child development such as exercise and quality sleep.
UK Chief Medical Officers’ advice for parents and carers on Children and Young People’s screen and social media use
Technology can be a wonderful thing but too much time sitting down or using mobile devices can get in the way of important, healthy activities. Here are some tips for balancing screen use with healthy living:
Getting enough, good quality sleep is very important. Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
Talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents and carers should never assume that children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone - when in doubt, don’t upload!
Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by, their school’s policy on screen time.
Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen. It’s good to get up and move about a bit. #sitlessmovemore
Safety when out and about
Advise children to put their screens away while crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention.
Talk with your children about using screens and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed - make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
Family time together
Screen-free meal times are a good idea - you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.
Use helpful phone features
Some devices and platforms have special features - try using these features to keep track of how much time you (and with their permission, your children) spend looking at screens or on social media.
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