Experts Renew Call for Official Guidelines on Children’s Screen Use

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British experts have recently called for official guidelines on children’s screen use, a decade after they first stated concern on the harms to children’s health. A further call has been made by leading educationalists, authors and child development experts for guidelines at a national level on the usage of screens by children.

The experts highlighting the issue described what they see as the increasingly ‘toxic’ nature of the impacts of screens in childhood. The letter was signed by 40 influential people, including notables such as writer Philip Pullman, psychotherapist Susie Orbach and childcare specialist Penelope Leach. The letter suggests the government appoint a minister having authority like those in cabinet, whose role is to inspect all government policies and evaluate their results on the wellbeing of children.

Protecting a Child’s Growth

The letter also states the importance of the development of kindergarten-style schools for children aged from 3 to 7. Social and emotional growth was talked about, while the value of outdoor playing activities was also discussed. The experts called for official guidelines on children’s screen usage until at least the age of 12, asking for the authorities to issue instructions on using screen-based technology so that children’s health and development can be improved.

Ten years have passed since the experts sent their first thought-provoking letter to The Guardian to suggest their worry about the deterioration of children’s wellbeing by the decrease in outdoor playing activities, growing screen usage and ‘excessive competition in the schooling system.’ Since the letter was first written, its contributors have repeatedly described the policy-making as half-hearted and ineffective. These worries appear to be well founded, as mental health problems and obesity in children have reached alarming levels.

Developing Resilience

The letter further suggested that if children are to develop the emotional resilience to develop in technological culture, then rather than being consumed with technology, they should find time for outdoor playing activities. This is especially important during the early years from birth to 7 years of age, as without sufficient concern and balance, the mental and physical wellbeing of a child could be hindered.

Sue Palmer is in charge of the ‘Upstart’ campaign, aiming to adapt education for children under seven into a kindergarten-style. Palmer suggested that except from the basic materialistic necessities of shelter and food, children need love and play to allow them to develop psychologically, physically and socially. The consumer culture has conditioned them to want new technological items from an increasingly early age.

While we have become increasingly conscious about our children’s marks in exams, it is sometimes forgotten that resilience and self-management can be learned in playgrounds and outdoor activities as they get to taste the experiences first-hand, rather than from a distance. The writers of this letter would suggest that matters are worse now than when Palmer first addressed these issues, with psychological and social problems now at record levels.

It remains to be seen whether prolonged time looking at screens in early child is directly associated with adverse outcomes on physical and mental wellbeing, but it is certainly worth valuing a healthy balance between differing types of play, including outdoor playgrounds.