A recent briefing from Public Health England warns that too much screen time is causing emotional problems in children. But is it that simple?
Public Health England this week announced that too much time in front of TV and computer screens is causing increasing psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety, in children. The report, which can be found here, suggests that the amount of time spent playing computergames was negatively associated with wellbeing in children – in other words, their general mental and physical health, resilience and the extent to which they are happy or worry about different aspects of their lives. The effects, particularly on mental health, were most pronounced for those children who spent more than four hours a day using some sort of screen-based technology.
While this sounds all doom and gloom, there are some caveats that need to be taken into account. The briefing was released to coincide with theChange4life campaign, and isn't a piece of peer-reviewed, scientific research. In its discussion of screen time, it cites data from other reports, for example, commissioned for the Department of Health that are themselves secondary analyses of existing data sets, such as theMillennium Cohort Study. If you have a read of these reports, it's really difficult to get a sense of what they did and didn't control for in looking at the effects of playing video games or watching TV.