Reducing screen time and mental health. Practical ideas – box & clock – what else?

On the telly with Sunday Politics today. One of the discussion points was about mental health following all the deeply upsetting reports where, linked to their social media use, young people are harming themselves or committing suicide. The stories are incredibly difficult to read and are every parent’s worst nightmare. My heart goes out to any families affected by this. 

The government met with Instagram and other social media companies this week. We secured an important commitment to remove self harm posts and further measures are being considered. We are working to make social media safe for children and young people to use and a consultation paper will be released soon. 

Day to day:

I know from interviewing young people and parents about mental health, that often, people want simple practical tips to cope with daily pressures as well as larger initiatives. 

The Chief Medical Officers report (below) has sought to concentrate on practical precautionary steps regarding screen time. They are clear that adults need to get involved too. 

A simple takeaway from the report = try to remove screens when eating and at night. 

After canvassing ideas from friends and family, I now have a ‘mobile phone box’ to chuck our phones in when eating and as I usually excuse the phone being around at night as it is my alarm – we are looking for cheap alarm clocks. 

Let me know if you have landed on successful screen reduction policies for yourself or your family. This issue is not going away anytime soon. I am keen to hear from you either below or

The Chief Medical Officers’ report:…/uk-cmo-commentary-on-screen-time-and-s…

Advice to parents and carers section: 

We encourage parents and carers to agree boundaries, outside of school and educational use, with children and young people (CYP) around online behaviours and time spent using screens. 

Studies have reported that CYP are worried about their parent’s screen use and want them to engage with them, and so adults can lead by example through not using screens excessively in front of children and behaving online as they would in person.

We commend the discussion questions for families produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to help them make decisions about their screen use:
• Is your family’s screen time under control?
• Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
• Does screen use interfere with sleep?
• Are you able to control snacking during screen time?

Many organisations are working to support parents and carers in keeping CYP safe online. If they, or any professionals working with children, would like to further explore advice on a healthy approach to screen based activities, the following sites contain information and tools:

• The UK Council for Internet Safety has developed a framework to equip children and young people for digital life and guidance for parents on minimising their child’s risk of online harms.
• The UK Safer Internet Centre has developed a platform where people can report harmful content online if they are not satisfied with the result of their report to social media providers. For illegal content, reports should be made to the police and online to the Internet Watch Foundation.
• The UK Safer Internet Centre have partnered with Childnet International to create specific guidance on Keeping under 5s safe online.
• The Professionals Online Safety Helpline
• 360 degree safe

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