With children spending more time in front of TVs, computer screens, video game consoles and smartphones, a British physicians group is calling on doctor groups and health officials to set clear guidelines for parents to limit kids’ screen time to stave off major health and developmental problems.
The call to action, published in the British Medical Journal, said despite mounting evidence of the dangers of kids spending too much time with electronic media, the issue has not drawn as much attention as other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.
"Perhaps because screen time is not a dangerous substance or a visibly risky activity, it has eluded the scrutiny that other health issues attract," said Dr. Aric Sigman. "Many questions remain regarding the precise nature of the association between screen time and adverse outcomes.”
But he added: "The advice from a growing number of both researchers and medical associations and government departments elsewhere is becoming unequivocal: reduce screen time."
Sigman noted some nations have issued recommendations on limiting screen time, but more action is needed.
Among the guidelines doctors recommend: Limit screen time or delay it entirely until the age of 3.
Sigman said studies show children of all ages are watching more screen media than ever before, and starting at earlier ages. By the age of 7, a child born today will have spent one full year of 24 hour days watching screens, rising to three full days by age 18, he said.
On average, American children average almost eight hours of screen time per day.
Studies have suggested that the negative impacts on health and wellbeing kick in after just two hours. Research has also linked excessive screen time to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and mental health issues.