Little evidence that screen time is harmful for kids, say doctors

There is not enough evidence that screen time is harmful, the new guidance states.

(CNN)There is little evidence that screen time is in itself harmful to a child's health, says new guidance published by British pediatricians, which avoids setting limits on screen time use for children of all ages.

The guidance, released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK, says it is impossible to recommend age appropriate time limits, but does, however, recommend avoiding screens an hour before bedtime to help children sleep better, according to a press statement.
The report suggests families place value on positive activities such as exercise, socializing and sleep as when these are replaced by screen time, a child's wellbeing is affected.
    To date, screen time has been linked to obesity, mental health problems, heart disease and educational failure, but "the evidence base for a direct 'toxic' effect has always been contested," according to the report.
      Russell Viner, RCPCH President and professor of adolescent health at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, told CNN: "We need to recognize that screens are ubiquitous in the modern world. We can't put the genie back in bottle."
      "Although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are causal, or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time," added Max Davie, RCPCH Officer for Health Promotion, said in a statement.
      The report also highlights that there is no consistent evidence of specific health or wellbeing benefits of screen time either and calls for more research into the area, "particularly on newer uses of digital media, such as social media," according to Davie.

        Divergence from previous guidelines

        RCPCH's view diverges from a range of guidance, issued by other organizations and experts.
        In 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommended screen time usage dependent on the age of the child. This advised against any digital media for infants aged 18 months and younger, recommended an hour of screen time per day for children between the ages of 2 and 5, and said parents can determine the restrictions -- as well as monitor the types of digital media their children use -- for kids ages 6 and older.
        In 2017, the American Heart Association suggested could contribute to future heart disease and recommended limiting exposure.
        A 2018 study found that limiting kids' recreational screen time to less than two hours a day, along with sufficient sleep and physical activity, is associated with improved cognition.
        RCPCH said in its guidance that recommendations by the AAP "and similar guidelines have been criticized as not being fully evidence-based and being focused on risks rather than recognizing the potential benefits of digital screen use in education and industry."
        It added: "Given the controversy, it is essential we stick to the evidence."