Recommended screen time for young children halved



    Children under the age of five should be using screens for no longer than an hour a day, according to new guidelines

    New research by the American Academy of Paediatrics says screen time for young children should be no more than an hour a day, with top UK child psychiatrist Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg backing up the recommendation. Those under the age of two should not be viewing anything at all on a screen.

    Dr van Zwanenberg, clinical director of the Priory’s Wellbeing Clinics and medical director of its Woodbourne Hospital in Birmingham, said; “The ubiquitous use of smart phones amongst adults is now also the case among pre-school children, with parents also using TVs and laptops and iPads as ‘digital nannies’ to allow themselves time to check their own devices or complete activities.”

    The US doctors have halved their previous recommended limit of two a day after reviewing new evidence, with the health and development of children increasingly being put at risk by the proliferation of screens in homes. Too much use can affect children’s sleep, fitness levels and ability to socialise with others. In order to learn, very young children need human interaction, although slightly older ones could benefit from the occasional educational programme.

    Van Zwanenberg continues; “There is ample evidence to demonstrate the negative effects of screen time on older children, particularly on those using screens for more than three hours a day; these include structural and functional brain imaging changes, increases in emotional distress and higher rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as lack of sleep. Screen time stimulates the ‘reward centre’ of pre-school children’s brain (the nucleus accumbens), acting as a digital drug, so they will want more and more of it.”

    Parents are advised to cut down on their own use of iPhones and iPads, so children do not copy their behaviour. If the use of a screen is unavoidable, try and ensure the content is educational, and engage with the little ones to allow them to reap the most benefit from what they view.