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Stop worrying so much about how much time kids spend looking at screens

Published Jan 5th, 2019 2:08PM EST
Screen time for kids
Image: Keystone-SDA/Shutterstock

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At this point, we’ve heard so many warnings about the supposed “toxic” effects of too much screen time on children that it almost feels like settled wisdom.

They say getting on social media too early is dangerous. Young minds are particularly impressionable and susceptible to the addictive nature of apps, mobile games and so much else that goes along with owning a smartphone. But now, new findings by British pediatricians basically tell us: Eh, stop worrying so much.

New guidance released by the UK’s Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, according to a CNN report, says it’s pretty much impossible to set an appropriate time limit on screen time for kids. Outside of some no-brainers, however, like the recommendation that parents keep kids away from screens an hour before bedtime to help them sleep better. But the takeaway here is pretty straightforward. “There is not enough evidence,” according to a statement the college released to the press, “to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age, making it impossible to recommend age appropriate time limits.’

According to the college’s officer for health promotion Dr. Max Davie, parents need to just “be parents” and figure out what’s best for their own children rather than follow a hard-and-fast one-size-fits-all rule. The study goes on to suggest that parents approach screen time based on the child’s age, individual needs and the value that the family places on positive activities like socializing, exercise and sleep. When screen time displaces those activities too much, according to study, THAT’S when you start to see a risk to a child’s well-being.

The new guidance includes a series of questions parents can ask themselves as they figure out what amount of screen time is appropriate for their children. Questions like: Is your family’s screen time under control? Does screen use interfere with what your family wants to do? Does screen use interfere with sleep? And, are you able to keep your children from snacking too much during screen time use?

Again, from Dr. Davie: “When it comes to screen time I think it is important to encourage parents to do what is right by their family. However, we know this is a grey area and parents want support and that’s why we have produced this guide. We suggest that age appropriate boundaries are established, negotiated by parent and child that everyone in the family understands. When these boundaries are not respected, consequences need to be put in place. It is also important that adults in the family reflect on their own level of screen time in order to have a positive influence on younger members.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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