Excessive screen time poses significant risks to children and young adults

Take a moment to think. I’m sure most parents would be horrified if their children took up smoking with all its proven harmful effects, but perhaps we should pause and really consider the damage the phone is doing to our children. Fifty years ago, it was common to see almost anyone waiting in any place, or travelling on a bus, train or even plane (yes a plane!) light up a cigarette. This was also the norm in almost all social situations; it was accepted. It was ‘cool’. Now, in the same circumstances, it appears the majority of us cannot pass an idle moment or spend just a second just sitting quietly observing the world around us or even survive a social situation without resorting to the comfort of some screen time; our phones have become a social crutch that actually serves to cripple imagination, stifle creativity and erode social skills.

Exposure to screens amongst the young begins early. In 2020, a study of US children by Anderson and Jiang, found that children at the age of two were spending an average of 42 minutes a day with screen media and that 95% of US adolescents (age, 13 to 18) had access to a smart phone. In the UK, Ofcom (2019) found that 70% of 12 – 15 year olds had a social media profile, with over a third stating that they found it difficult to control their screen-time.

And now the very alarming bit – various studies of teenage mental health over the same period (2018 – 2020) have found that rates of suicide, self-harm and common mental disorders amongst teenagers have increased.

These findings underscore the importance of a nurturing home and school environment that fosters strength, as children of all ages and mainly adolescents, are constantly exposed to the allure of social media.

It is also crucial for parents to set limits on screen and mobile usage for children and teenagers. Encouraging open communication about the dangers of social media, promoting healthy technology habits, and fostering real world social engagements, are essential steps in safeguarding children and teenagers.

Balancing screen time and outdoor activities is crucial for overall wellbeing. Parents need to establish media free periods, to help children maintain a balance with activities like family dinners or open-air games that distance them from mobile devices.

Discover More

Discover More