Child Health

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Leading UK paediatricians have advised parents to worry less about the effects of screen time on their children. 

A new guidance published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) — a professional body in charge of the training of paediatricians — contests research suggesting that children’s screen time is harmful. 

“The evidence base for a direct ‘toxic’ effect of screen time is contested, and the evidence of harm is often overstated,” reads the guidance. “The majority of the literature that does exist looks only at television screen time.”

While it’s true that research is currently divided on the issue of screen time’s impact on children’s wellbeing and mental health, one recent study found increased screen time may have caused depressive symptoms and suicide for teenage girls. 

Another recent study found that use of Facebook can negatively affect the wellbeing of young adults, and Instagram has been named as the most harmful social network for young people’s mental health. 

But, the RCPCH states that “many of the apparent connections” between screen time and harmful effects “may be mediated by lost opportunities for positive activities (socialising, exercise, sleep) that are displaced by screen time.”

The guidance recommended that families should “negotiate screen time limits” with kids “based upon the needs of an individual child” as well as the ways in which screens are used and “the degree to which use of screens appears to displace” sleep and social and physical activity. 

“We would also adopt the expert recommendation that screens are avoided for an hour before the planned bedtime,” the guidance stated. 

RCPCH spoke to 109 children from across the UK about their screen time habits and found that 88 percent of young people surveyed said screen time has a “negative impact” on their sleep. It’s worth noting, however, that the sample size is not representative of the population. 

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