New screen time research published - RCPCH responds

RCPCH responds to latest study, which casts doubt on whether spending time on screens before bed is harmful to people's mental health, and says "we would still suggest that families follow our guidance published earlier this year".

Research by Oxford University academics has found little evidence of a relationship between screen time and wellbeing in adolescents.

Based on data from more than 17,000 teenagers, the study casts doubt on the widely accepted notion that spending time online, gaming or watching TV, especially before bedtime, can damage young people’s mental health.

The research found that adolescents’ total screen time per day had little impact on their mental health, both on weekends and weekdays. It also found that the use of digital screens two hours, one hour or 30 minutes before bedtime did not have clear associations with decreases in adolescent wellbeing.

Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

The controversy around screen use and adolescent wellbeing has always suffered from an excess of opinion relative to data, and this paper helps to correct this imbalance. The analysis is robust and suggests an overall population effect too small to warrant consideration as a public health problem. They also question the widely held belief that screens before bedtime are especially bad for mental health.

However, none of this is intended to suggest that screen time cannot become excessive in individual cases, and we would still suggest that families follow our guidance published earlier this year [this guidance is no longer available]. We continue, for now, to recommend that screens be avoided for one hour before bed since there are other reasons beside mental health for children to need a good nights' sleep.