There is little evidence screen use for children is harmful in itself, according to guidance from leading paediatricians and published by the BBC.
Parents should worry less as long as they have gone through a checklist on the effect of screen time on their child, it says. While the guidance avoids setting screen time limits, it recommends not using them in the hour before bedtime. Experts say it is important that the use of devices does not replace sleep, exercising and time with family.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which oversees the training of specialists in child medicine, has produced the guidance for under-18s.
It said there was no good evidence that time in front of a screen is “toxic” to health, as is sometimes claimed. The review of evidence found associations between higher screen use and obesity and depression.
But the college looked at this and said it was not clear from the evidence if higher screen use was causing these problems or if people with these issues were more likely to spend more time on screens.
The study was carried out by experts at University College London.
The college said it was not setting time limits for children because there was not enough evidence that screen time was harmful to child health at any age.
Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the RCPCH, said phones, computers and tablets were a “great way to explore the world”, but parents were often made to feel that there was something “indefinably wrong” about them.
He said: “We want to cut through that and say ‘actually if you’re doing okay and you’ve answered these questions of yourselves and you’re happy, get on and live your life and stop worrying’.