How screen time can be good for children
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