Editor’s view - screen out?

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Young children are spending increasing amounts of time in front of screens, but should we have prescribed limits for use?

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Liz Roberts

There seems to have been something in the air of late, as reports and research into children’s screen time and online use have flooded out.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health kicked things off with guidance saying that no specific limits should be set on screen time as there was no evidence that this was beneficial.

Others disagreed, however, with Dr Aric Sigman’s report for the Association of Play Industries pointing to a huge increase in children’s screen time and calling for limits of two hours a day.

A Canadian study linked high levels of screen use to delayed development in three-year-olds.

Ofcom’s annual research into children’s media use found that half of three- to four-year-olds spent nine hours a week online, and the latest Childwise report said that three out of four five- to seven-year-olds have their own computer/tablet.

As our news story in this issue shows, other countries are moving in the direction of recommending limits to screen time, and the Taiwanese government has made it a legal obligation for parents to monitor use.

So should we do the same? There is no easy answer, as this is a relatively new dilemma, there is insufficient long-term research, and the use and type of devices is changing so rapidly.

We should be vigilant and concerned, of course, but there is no holding back the availability of screen technology and its use in our world.

Ignoring for the moment the irony that digital technology has been removed from the proposed new Early Learning Goals, early years settings can play a very positive part in all this. They can encourage and enable creative and stimulating use of digital technology; they can continue to develop forest schools and outdoor nurseries with their myriad benefits; and they can support parents to use screens to bring famillies together rather than keep members in isolation.

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