Advanced Television

MPs to probe kids’ screen time wellbeing

November 20, 2023

By Colin Mann

Members of the UK House of Commons Education Committee are to question experts on the effects of screen time on children’s development and wellbeing in the first session of  its new inquiry, with part two of the session focusing on pupils’ education about online safety and how parents are supported.

The session on November 21st comes after the cross-party Education Committee received 48 written evidence submissions for this inquiry.

In the first panel, academics from the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds and York will be asked to consider the lack of recent academic research into this subject, and why evidence regarding a relationship between screen time and poor mental health appears to be mixed. They will also be asked to consider the extent to which there may be links between excessive screen use and issues such as shortened attention spans, quality of sleep, and leading a more sedentary lifestyle.

In the second panel, witnesses from Parent Zone and Internet Matters will be asked for their views on the way online safety is taught in schools and the guidance offered by the Department for Education.

The Department issued guidance to schools and colleges earlier in 2023 on filtering and monitoring standards, and ‘online safety’ features in the curriculum through computing, citizenship and relationships, sex and health education (RSHE).

Research by Internet Matters and Ofcom found that a majority of children who claimed to feel “confident” about safely using the internet in fact lacked media literacy. Their study of tracking data found that around a quarter of those 12 to 17-year-olds who felt confident failed to correctly identify a fake social media profile when presented with one. Only 41 per cent of children aged eight to 17 correctly identified the links at the top of a search engine page as sponsored ads.

There will also be questions on how parents could be better supported to manage their children’s exposure to potential online harms or mitigate excessive levels of screen time, and whether the Government could or should provide such guidance.

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