Hmmm, I’m not quite sure what I think about today’s announcement from The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) (please see link to the report at the end of this post) which basically says ‘there is no good evidence that time in front of a screen is “toxic” to health’. Maybe not; yet.
The report does go on to say it is up to parents to monitor their own children’s use and manage it accordingly and yes, I would agree with that completely. But, I fear putting out such a statement is going to make the battle greater for all concerned. And yes, we all know, it can be a battle. RCPCH issued a set of questions to help parents:
1. Is your family’s screen time under control?
2. Does screen use interfere with what you family want to do?
3. Does screen use interfere with sleep?
4. Are you able to control snacking during screen time?
I like all those questions – apart from the last one. That makes me shudder and squirm. I’m sorry but it just does! How much more evidence do we need – snacks are not the way forward. Eating over screens – ditto. A few questions I might add include:
1. Do I know what my children are looking at and what social media they are using?
2. Do we talk about what they have learned whilst on their screens?
3. Do they use their devices purely for games and social media or do they use them for learning, finding out, reading up on subjects? The report touches on this but I would still add it to my checklist.
4. Do we, as parents, set a good example? (the report does raise this point too)
5. Are there clear boundaries and rules for us, as a family, to follow? Are they working? Are they still relevant?
6. Do all our screens, devices etc stay downstairs, all the time?
As Dr Viner, President of RCPCH, says, the genie is out of the bottle. Screens are part of modern life. And as I think the report is trying to say, they can be a good part, a fantastic part. BUT, please let’s wait a little longer before we write off any chance of screen time being toxic. ‘Everything in moderation’, as nanny would say. So let’s keep screens in moderation, in balance, with the many other wonderful parts of childhood and growing in in the 21st Century.