On Christmas Day, the Guardian published a letter with the heading:

Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health

It came from a long list of the respectable and the renown.  You will be impressed by the list of authors.

It began:

“A decade ago our first multiple-signatory “toxic childhood” press letter described how children’s health and wellbeing were being undermined by the decline of outdoor play, increasingly screen-based lifestyles, a hyper-competitive schooling system and the unremitting commercialisation of childhood.  Despite widespread public concern, subsequent policymaking has been half-hearted, short-termist and disjointedly ineffective.  The above factors continue to affect children adversely, with “school and cool” displacing active, self-directed play at an ever-earlier age.  Physical health problems like obesity continue to escalate, and mental health problems among children and young people are approaching crisis levels.  As well as the intense distress caused to families, there are obviously longer-term social and economic consequences for society as a whole.”

It ends by specifically calling for “National guidelines on screen-based technology for children up to the age of 12, produced by recognised authorities in child health and development.”

Before you rush to sign up, however, you might pause to read this blog from the DART Centre at the University of Edinburgh.  This rubbishes most of the Guardian writers’ ideas, and ends positively thus:

“We call for children to be given the resources and the tools to explore and benefit from the digital world as their parents do.

We call for research to capture the nuance and detail of engagement with technology and understand HOW rather than HOW MUCH new technologies should be used.

We call for technology developers in the commercial sector to work with academics, educators and families to create digital worlds where children can play and learn in a way which meets their needs and expands their experiences.

We call for anyone making pronouncements on child development to support their arguments with quality evidence.

We call for parents not to switch off, but instead to switch on to technology, and engage with their child’s digital learning and play.”


All this should be of particular interest to anyone involved in outdoor learning and environmental education as people are always making the easy association between screen use and poor health outcomes.  It’s good to know how little evidence there is for this.  The point about the need to differentiate between different sorts of screen seems well-made.  Thanks to Justin Dillon for alerting us to this blog.


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