BBC:- Mobile phones should be banned from the dinner table and bedtimes as part of a healthy approach to devices, the UK’s four chief medical officers have said.
Children should also take a break from screen-based activities every two hours, the guidance said.
They also said technology companies must do more to keep children safe.
The report comes as England’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is set to meet bosses at Instagram over the handling of self-harm and suicide content.
Links have been made between the suicide of teenager Molly Russell and her exposure to harmful material on Instagram.
Her father has said he believes the Facebook-owned platform “helped kill my daughter”.
Prof Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer and the lead for the UK, said the case was “tragic” and it was clear some children were being exposed to inappropriate content.
She said companies had a duty of care to help keep children safe and that age limits for using social media needed to be properly enforced and children should not be channelled towards harmful content – one of the key concerns in the Molly Russell case.
But Dame Sally said a review of evidence had not proven a clear link between screen-based activities and mental health problems.
And digital technologies could be a force for good, aiding online learning, socialising and helping people manage health conditions.
What does the guidance recommend parents do?
There are several clear steps for parents, which the chief medical officers say will help keep children safe and healthy.
- not using phones and mobile devices at the dinner table – talking as a family is very important for development
- keeping screens out of the bedroom at bedtime
- talking as a family about keeping safe online and about cyber-bulling and what children should do if they are worried
- not using phones when crossing a road or doing any other activity that requires a person’s full attention
- making sure children take a break from screens every two hours by getting up and being active
- policing their own use too – parents should give their children proper attention and quality family time and never assume they are happy for pictures to be shared