Health and well-being, effects of screen time in children and adolescents – RCPCH Guidance

screen time

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health RCPCH has published new guidance for parents concerning children and screen time

New research from paediatricians says that screen time for children is not something parents should worry about. However, the guidance suggests focus should be on family time, ensurinng it does not impact on sleep and socialising.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) published guidance on screen time. 109 children and young people took part in an ‘engagement exercise‘. It’s reported that the children and young people said they spend around;

  • 2.5 hours per day on a laptop, tablet or computer
  • 3 hours looking at screens on smartphones and;
  • around 2 hours watching television.

What are their views on time in front of the screen;

  • 88% say that it has a negative impact on their sleep and that they spent an average of 1.5 hours on devices before falling asleep.
  • 41% said that the screentime affected their play and or fun.
  • 35% reported that it had a negative impact on their mood and mental health.
  • 18% said that it has a negative impact on family time and school work

The guidance from the RCPCH was based on research by The British Medical Journal (The BMJ) who reviewed several studies on the subject.

The review question was

‘What is the evidence for health and well-being effects of screentime in children and adolescents?’

Review question for the research by the BMJ

They found that actual screen time did not impact children. The British Medical Journal looked at research that addressed the effects of screen time on:

  • Body composition;
  • Diet/energy intake;
  • Mental health;
  • Cardiovascular risk;
  • Fitness;
  • Sleep;
  • Pain and;
  • Asthma.

Studies had shown evidence for a relationship between overweight/obesity and reported that there was a strong association between screentime and obesity, higher BMI or fat mass.

No good evidence that screentime is toxic

This study is related to actual screentime, and says there is no evidence that it is directly ‘toxic’. It really does not cover the content being consumed! If the studies had looked at the content being consumed on screens it may have been different. Content such as social media or some of the low-quality video on certain streaming channels.

The guidance – summary

You can read the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s report screentime time guidance here. Here is a summary of that guidance from RCPCH;

  • They are unable to recommend a cut off time
  • Ensure time on screens does not affect children’s sleep
  • Make sure it does not interfere with family time
  • Control snacking during screen time

YouGov Survey

YouGov also polled members of the public today regarding screen time. They were asked in the YouGov survey if they look at a screen within an hour of going to bed and a huge 71% said they do. When asked what extent they think parents or carers should oversee how much children spend on screens 50% think a great deal should oversee screen time.

What do you think about screen time, let us know in the comments.

If you’re concerned about your child’s time looking at devices, why not check out our events listings to get them out for a few hours.

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