"Not enough evidence" to confirm screen time is harmful to child health

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 5 January 2019 in News

But the guidance warned that there is a risk to child wellbeing when screen time displaces positive activities.

Image credit: PA

There is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age, according to new guidance from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Releasing the first ever guidance on children’s screen time, the RCPCH said a lack of evidence made it impossible to recommend age appropriate time limits, with paediatricians instead recommending parents approach screen time based on the child’s developmental age and the value they place on positive activities such as socialising, exercise and sleep.

But the guidance warned that there is a risk to child wellbeing when screen time displaces positive activities.

Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion for the RCPCH said: “Technology is an integral part of the lives of children and young people. They use it for communication, entertainment, and increasingly in education.

“Studies in this area are limited but during our research analysis, we couldn’t find any consistent evidence for any specific health or wellbeing benefits of screen time, and although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are causal, or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time.

“To help us develop a better understanding of this issue, I urge both more and better research, particularly on newer uses of digital media, such as social media.”

But while the college said it was “important to encourage parents to do what is right by their family”, it also pointed to evidence suggesting that screen time can have a negative impact on a child’s diet which has the potential to lead to overweight or obesity.

Dr Davie says: “We know that watching screens can distract children from feeling full and they are also often exposed to advertising which leads to higher intake of unhealthy foods.

“The Government is currently consulting on whether to ban the advertising of food and drink high in salt, sugar and fat as part of its Childhood Obesity Plan. We very much hope this proposal is implemented but push the Government to go one step further giving children the same protection online and when using on-demand services too.”



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