Children and young people are ‘digital natives’ who grow up surrounded by digital information and entertainment on screens. Time spent on screens – from social media to computers and television – is a major part of modern life and a necessary part of modern education. However, screen time has been cited in the media as the cause of obesity, mental health problems and educational failure- but the evidence base for a direct ‘toxic’ effect has always been contested.
It is clear that trends towards poorer mental health amongst young people in the UK were evident before the advent of social media and digital technologies.
There are a separate set of concerns about the specific content of screen use: these vary from concerns about exposure to violence in films, to the effect of cyberbullying through social media; with particular concern over the impact of social media on mental wellbeing amongst children.
This guide provides a summary of existing research on the health effects of screen time on children and young people. It outlines recommendations for health professionals and families on screen time use.