Etchells and colleagues wrote an editorial in response to a call for more policy limiting screen time for children. Individuals concerned about the lack of government oversight restricting screen time, contended that more screen time resulted in physical and mental health issues negatively affecting a child’s wellbeing, and as such, that screen time is detrimental to early childhood development. Etchells and his colleagues, countered that these claims were not grounded in evidence and more research is needed. They noted the complexities of technology use and child development, where several factors could be responsible for unhealthy habits, obesity or overall development concerns. Furthermore, they suggest that creating policy without research rigor could lead to possible harmful policies for children, as well as wasting government resources that could be better used to explore the issue of appropriate screen time for children.
I have read various articles in the past five years where some support and others condemn screen time in the context of raising a healthy child. Others, like the authors of this article, show the need for more evidence. My stance aligns with aspects of Etchells et. al., in that further research wound be beneficial in making conclusive statements and developing policy about screen time use for children. From personal experience, I grew up with a significant amount of time using computer and television screens. But my experience isn’t necessarily representative, nor contemporary, as children growing up today have many more screens to contend with (i.e. tablets, phones) and may be introduced to this technology at a much younger age than I was. As well, screens may have affected me in ways that I am not aware of. As with many aspects of technology use and its impact, this issue is nuanced and complex. For example, Etchells et. al. (2017) points out that the content a child views, socioeconomic status or a child’s family environment could be a greater factor on child development than specifically the amount of time in front of a screen (para. 3). I would also suggest that the stage of development may be important to consider, as a toddler’s time in front of a screen may have different kinds of impact, than a nine-year-old. In order to understand the true impact of screen time on children, further studies that account for diverse influencing factors would be important to have more decisive and data-driven conclusions about this issue.
Etchells, P., et al. (January 6, 2017). Screen-time guidelines should be built on evidence, not hype. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2017/jan/06/screen-time-guidelines-need-to-be-built-on-evidence-not-hype