Chief Medical Officers Release Official Advice on Children’s Screen Time

Baby using iPad
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Children’s screen time and exposure to social media have been highly debated topics in recent years. Now, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers have released official advice on screen time limits.

We live in an age when most of us are glued to our smartphones or tablets at all hours of the day. New technologies are developing faster and faster, and it seems as though theres an app for just about everything.

These new technologies can help us connect with friends and family around the world, we can monitor our health and track important milestones. However, we’re also aware becoming increasingly aware of the dark side of smart technology and the growing issues surrounding social media.

These are topics which have been debated in great detail in recent months, with experts and medical professionals dividing opinion with their take on the situation. Furthermore, with concerns over cyberbullying and access to inappropriate material, it’s the impact of social media and screen time on children which has become the most polarising topic of discussion.

Now, for the first time, the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has published guidelines on children’s access to screens and smartphones. While the guidelines are not prescriptive, Dame Sally is encouraging every family to have a conversation about screen time and social media.

Why are children’s screen time and social media guidelines needed?

Speaking on the issue, Professor Dame Sally Davies, says: “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.”

She continues: “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.”

children-screen-timeWhat are the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on screen time?

The CMO has developed a series of pointers for parents and carers based on research evidence on child and adolescent development. And it’s all about balancing screen use with healthy living.

  • Sleep matters. Getting enough, good quality sleep is very important. Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
  • Talking helps: Talk with your children about using devices 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.
  • 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!
  • Sharing sensibly. Parents and children should talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents should never assume that their children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone – when in doubt, don’t upload!
  • Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen #sitlessmovemore
  • Education matters. Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by their school’s policy on mobile phones/personal devices
  • 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 a screen or on social media.
  • 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.

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