Six questions parents ask about children and digital media

Are screen-based media ‘bad’ for my child? Will too much screen time affect my child’s social skills? A new UK report by University of Edinburgh academic, Lydia Plowman, and colleague, Jonathan Hancock, responds to six questions parents and educators most want answered.

Readable, informed and clear-eyed Six questions that parents ask about children’s use of digital media was commissioned by the UK Children’s Media Foundation for its Parent Portal. The review brings clarity to a complex and contested topic. Each question is followed by quick summary points then more detailed discussion and research findings. For instance to the query about screen-based media being ‘bad’ Plowman writes:

  • Be wary of research that makes general claims about screen-based media being ‘bad’ for children: it’s the specific content of media and the specific context of use that count.
  • It has not been proven that media discourage children from exercising. Research shows that child obesity may be caused by a wide range of factors.
  • Evidence suggests that using technology after lights out may lead to tiredness and poor sleeping patterns in young people.
  • It seems likely that there are both positive and negative effects – we can’t have one without the other.
  • The amount of time parents spend in front of a screen can shape children’s media habits (p 7, Plowman & Hancock, 2014).

Over the next few weeks the Digital Business team will bring more on the review, so keep watching this blog. In the meantime see for details. Source: Plowman, L & Hancock, J (2014) Parents’ FAQs on children’s use of media: a review. Children’s Media Foundation: London.

Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is Early Childhood Australia's (ECA) Strategic Communications Executive, working on projects that support ECA’s reputation as a trusted voice for young children, their families, educators and carers. Clare has been part of ECA's Learning Hub Team, managed ECA's Start Early. Respectful relationships for life project and ECA digital initiatives including the federally funded Digital Business Kit and Live Wires. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for a number of years, including for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government.

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