How screen time can be good for chil­dren

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SCREEN time and so­cial me­dia are pos­i­tive for chil­dren’s men­tal health and it would be im­pos­si­ble to limit it, says a Manch­ester lec­turer.

Dr Bex Lewis, from Manch­ester Metropoli­tan Uni­ver­sity, said par­ents should worry about the qual­ity of screen time and not the quan­tity. Her re­search sub­mit­ted to the par­lia­men­tary inquiry into a screen time limit looked at the pos­i­tive ways chil­dren can use tech­nol­ogy.

The inquiry comes after the Uni­ver­sity of Glas­gow said turn­ing a phone off by 10pm re­duces the risk of de­pres­sion and men­tal health prob­lems.

Dr Lewis’s ev­i­dence sug­gested par­ents are pleased their chil­dren spend time on­line be­cause ‘it shows they are pas­sion­ate about some­thing’ – with the ex­am­ple that those who watch on­line foot­ball will prob­a­bly want to go out and try the game for them­selves.

She also de­scribed how screen time can en­cour­age move­ment – through pursuits like geo­caching and Poke­mon hunt­ing.

“Other web­sites and apps that al­low peo­ple to un­der­stand what is ‘nor­mal’, pro­vide spa­ces to con­nect with oth­ers who are not ge­o­graph­i­cally close by,” the re­port said.

“Try­ing to leg­is­late on screen time is just im­pos- ●● sible. If they give their child free rein, after 20 mins they will get bored.

“A clas­sic ex­am­ple of this is France in­tro­duc­ing wine at an early age which re­duces binge-drink­ing at a later stage,” she said.

Look­ing at the pos­i­tive as­pects of tech­nol­ogy, she added: “The less we de­monise it, the more we can use it for good ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses.

“Dig­i­tal is like a brick – you can choose whether to build a house with it or throw it through a win­dow.”

The lec­turer also ex­pressed that par­ents should stay with chil­dren when they are on de­vices.

“Don’t shove your child in an­other room with a de­vice, make sure you’re within hear­ing dis­tance,” she said. The min­is­ter for cul­ture, Matt Han­cock, has said there is a ‘gen­uine con­cern’ about the amount of screen time young peo­ple are clock­ing up and the neg­a­tive im­pact it could have on their lives.

He has sug­gested manda­tory lim­its, and age ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

De­tails of how the scheme might work are yet to be de­vel­oped but they are likely to ex­tend a law re­quir­ing porno­graphic web­sites to en­sure that users are over 18, by means of a credit card.

Dr Lewis said the 10pm rule doesn’t work and that Mr Han­cock is look­ing in the ‘wrong di­rec­tion’ with screen time, which some re­search has linked to obe­sity, ir­reg­u­lar sleep pat­terns, loss of so­cial skills and vi­o­lence.

Lec­turer says par­ents should worry about qual­ity of screen time, not quan­tity

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