Is screen time actually bad for your kids?

Girl using tablet
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How badly does screen time really affect our children? Not as much as you might think, say experts – and there are even some benefits, too

This month the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classed Boy playing on phone

Credit: iStock

There are even some benefits to playing games for short periods of time, says Professor Any Przybylski, associate professor and director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute. In fact, research shows that those who play for one-and-a-half hours a day tend to perform better in some measures of mental health than those who don’t play, or play for more than four hours a day.

He adds that the classification is “well-meaning, but premature. Children do have the right to information, and so if we’re worried about the internet or technology or screens, and we’re taking them away, there is an argument to be made that we are violating their human rights.”

Do parents know what’s appropriate?

Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health also said problems with gaming can often be associated with parenting, rather than the game or the individuals. “I think a lot of worry I have about diagnosis is where it places the difficulty in the child rather than in the system around the child, and particularly around the ability of parents to place boundaries around screen time.”

“So whatever we say about the evidence around screen time, we have to have boundaries over when it’s appropriate to use it, and when you have to do other stuff. That’s basic parenting”

Dr Etchells finally adds that: “The best evidence that we currently have really suggests some screen time, some video game playing, is better than non at all, particularly for child wellbeing.”

“To my mind, that’s not the message that has been sent out this week with the new classification; the message that seems to have come across instead is gaming is bad, gaming is addictive.”

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