New House of Commons report on impacts of screen time on children draws heavily on evidence from Faculty lecturer

Stronger guidance and controls are needed to protect children from screen time, according to a new report that draws heavily on evidence from an AHC lecturer

Stronger guidance and controls are needed to protect children from screen time, according to a new report that draws heavily on evidence from a lecturer in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures.

‘Screen Time: Impacts on Education and Wellbeing’, by the House of Commons Education Committee, references written and oral evidence submitted by Rafe Clayton, Lecturer in Media Practice in the School of Media and Communication.

The report notes that there has been a 52% increase in children’s screen time between 2020 and 2022 and that nearly 25% of children and young people use their smartphones in a way that is consistent with a behavioural addiction.

In his evidence submissions, Rafe Clayton outlined the physical impacts of screen time on children – which include digital eye strain – as well as the damaging effects on a child’s sleep pattern caused by unregulated screen usage.

One of the issues that we have experienced is young people using screens late at night and as they go to bed and even picking up their devices in the middle of the night, interacting with others, communicating with others. It is not just blue light disturbing their sleep, but the content they may be exposing themselves to, which is then interfering with their brain patterns as they try to go to sleep.

Rafe Clayton

Rafe also explained how parents’ phone usage frequency impacts children’s developmental wellbeing.

“While parents are on screens, they are not looking at, supervising or observing their children,” he said. “We heard a lot of guilt from parents regarding when they are looking at their screens and they have just ignored their child, or they have put their child on screens to act as almost a surrogate. These situations are…very concerning.”

The Education Committee supports tougher guidance on keeping phones out of the classroom and breaktimes. However, the Committee heard mixed evidence on how well taken up this will be and recommends formal monitoring and evaluation of this approach by the next Government with the possibility of a statutory ban if needed. The Committee also concludes that screen time should be minimal for younger children and better balanced with face-to-face socialisation and physical activity for older ones.  

Rafe Clayton is the principal investigator for the ‘New Uses of Screens in Post-Lockdown Britain’ study which examines the impact of the pandemic upon screen-time and screen dependencies for both work and leisure amongst the British population. This mixed methods study is funded as part of the Policy Impact initiative from Research England.

The Education Committee scrutinises the work of the Department for Education, covering children’s social care, schools, colleges, the early years and higher education.