RCPCH responds to social media and screen time guidance from Chief Medical Officers

The UK's Chief Medical Officers have issued guidance on children and young people's use of social media and screen time.

Following  a systematic map of reviews, the CMOs for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have concluded that there isn’t enough evidence at the moment to back evidence-based guidelines or any cap on screen time. However, they recommend a precautionary approach and action by schools, government and technology companies to protect children and young people. The UK CMOs call for a duty of care to be established and for a voluntary code of conduct to be agreed ahead of government legislation.

The advice commends the RCPCH's Screen Time Guidance [this guidance is no longer available], published in January 2019, and echoes much of our advice to parents.

Commenting on the guidance, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:

Today’s children are growing up in an increasingly digital world, with their time often spent on screens for entertainment, communication and education purposes. While there is a lack of evidence to suggest that screen time itself is harmful, the content and context of what children are viewing is paramount. That’s why we welcome today’s advice from the Chief Medical Officers and fully support their proposals to improve the safety and well-being of children online.

Any steps towards tightening regulation or introducing specific legislation needs to be done in full consultation with children and young people themselves to ensure any new measures are appropriate and workable.

The lack of scientific evidence means it is impossible to recommend specific time limits to children and families. Instead, we suggest that parents make decisions about screen time based on their child’s development and health, and whether they are getting enough exercise and sleep. It remains a question of balance, as it is when screen use gets in the way or restricts other activities that a child’s well-being can be negatively impacted.