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First UK guidelines for screen time announced

By Rachel Lawler
child playing with tablet
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published guidelines to help parents manage children’s screen time.
In the first ever screen-time guidance published in the UK, the RCPCH suggests that parents adjust their child’s use of screens based on their developmental age and individual needs.
The guidance says that, while there is not enough evidence to confirm that screens are harmful to child health, screen time should not interrupt positive activities for children such as socialising, exercise and sleep.
Family decision
Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion at the RCPCH, said: “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.”
Examining screen use
The guidelines include four key questions for families to help examine their use of technology:
  1. Is screen time controlled?
  2. Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
  3. Does screen use interfere with sleep?
  4. Are you able to control snacking during screen time?
The RCPCH says that if a family are satisfied with their answers to these questions, then they are likely to be handling screen time well.
Practical advice
For those looking to reduce their families use of screen, the RCPCH also offers practical advice.
This includes asking parents to set an example with their own use of screens and making sure that they prioritise face-to-face interactions with their children
Screen time with a purpose
Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Alliance, said: “Today’s research is just the latest to show that there appears to be few negative effectives from children’s use of tablets and similar devices. Screen time with a purpose can be a useful part of early learning because it provides children with another means of exploring and interacting with the world around them.
"Having said that, it’s clear that technology can never replace social interaction or physical experience. These are vital skills and, while today’s research should put parents’ minds at ease with regards to the safety of screen time, it’s important that the message of managing this time is taken on board too.”
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