Researchers say that there was an increase in screen time during the Covid pandemic affecting all age groups, and most noticeably in children aged six to ten. Screen time is the amount of time spent using a device with a screen such as a smartphone, computer, television, or video game console. The researchers also found that the increase in screen time adversely affected physical and mental wellbeing. Any life-based approach to children’s education and development needs to look at ways of limiting screen time – both at home and at school – to promote and encourage active lives, with plenty of opportunities for stimulating and creative learning and outdoor, nature-based experiences.
The researchers, from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), analysed 89 different studies focusing on increases in screen time before and during the pandemic, giving a total sample size of over 200,000 people.
Primary aged children (6–10 years) recorded the largest increases – nearly 90 minutes a day. This was followed by adults over 18 and adolescents (11–17 years old) – just less than an hour for each group. The screen time of young children under five increased least, going up by 35 mins.
Among children, increases in screen time were found to be associated with inferior diet, poor eye health, deteriorating mental health (including anxiety) and behavioural problems such as aggression, irritability and the increased frequency of temper tantrums.
The study also identified multiple correlations between increases in screen time and negative outcomes for adults, including adverse effects on diet, eye health, mental health (including anxiety, depression, and loneliness) and general health, including fatigue, decreased physical activity and weight gain.
…the overall picture provides clear evidence that screen time should be reduced wherever possible to minimise potential negative outcomes. These include adverse dietary behaviours, sleep, mental health, and eye health effects. It is also important that non-sedentary activities are promoted to mitigate the risks of increased screen time.Professor Shahina Pardhan, Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute (VERI), Anglia Ruskin University
The Times Education Commission, which published its final report recently, heard stories of three-year-olds unable to walk properly because their muscles had not developed after spending days sitting in front of the television and five-year-olds speaking with an American accent, mimicking the cartoon characters they had been watching.
Commenting on an earlier study Professor Pardhan said: “Governments should work with schools to help shape home-based learning guidelines that encourage creative learning away from devices, including promoting other types of activities and frequent screen breaks.”
Life-Based Learning is predicated on the idea that the life challenges that we all face, now and in the future, become the focus of a fully rounded life-based curriculum. Tackling obesity – and promoting children’s physical health and wellbeing more generally – is one such challenge. Mental wellbeing is another. Our aim should be to ensure that children live healthy lives now and that they have the knowledge, knowhow and opportunity to lead healthy lives into and throughout adulthood.
Image at the head of this article by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay.