At various casual and non-casual meetings that I’ve attended the topic of the merits or sequences of children’s screen time has been broached. There is never a lack of opinion nor commitment to these opinions in the parents or non-parents of children present. It seems that most people I’ve met hold strong beliefs in their view of what is commonly referred to as “screen time” for children. In fact, I have found that even entering into a discussion around the topic of screen time to be fraught with emotionally charged position holding. The majority of personal views that I have heard fall on the side of the negative effects that screen time is having on modern children. Some of the positions are born out of personal experience with children and screen time, some are not based in direct experience, but what is present is conviction to each person’s held position. There is, though, a lack of research findings supporting this negative view of screen time of children.

Palmer et al(2016) published a letter that pointed out that screen-based lifestyles of children were harming their health. The letter was jointly signed by many professionals who were in support ranging from education to economics. A response letter – published only 12 days later – that was signed again by a long list of professionals, pointed out that the view taken by the first letter was not based in research, and in fact, that there was much work to be done in order to clarify the over-arching questions of screen time on children. Taken together, what these two letters point out is the strong view points that are exhibited surrounding the issue of children’s screen time.

Research is needed – although, there is research that coincides with the second letter’s view. Parkes A, Sweeting H, Wight D, et al. (2013) point out that there is not evidence that screen time – defined in the paper as video game playing, as apposed to television viewing (a distinction that would need to be made in terms of argumentation of what defines “screen time” in an argument) – was a negative influence of psychosocial issues in children.

The discussion of the effects of screen time on children requires further research, and conversations and policies need to be based in the outcomes of this research; a knee-jerk reaction to this conversation needs to curtailed, and the community of people involved in this conversation need to base their arguments on the efforts of real research.

References

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

Palmer, S., et al. (2016, December 25). Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/dec/25/screen-based-lifestyle-harms-health-of-children

Parkes A, Sweeting H, Wight D, et al. (2013). Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study