Government guidance urges families to turn off TV and ban phones from table while eating to slash kids' screen time

The Government’s medical advisors suggest leaving phones outside the bedroom at night to ensure a good quality sleep.

And they recommend taking a break from screen-based activities, such as TV and social media, every couple of hours.

But the Chief Medical Officers fall short of stating a “safe” amount of daily use because the scientific evidence is lacking.

Instead, they say parents should ensure devices do not interfere with sleep, exercise and education, which are key to child development.

The guidance takes a “precautionary approach” that seeks to protect kids from the potential harms of too much screen time.

It comes after Ian Russell blamed Instagram for the death of his daughter Molly, 14, who killed herself after viewing images of suicide and self-harm.


The 11 page document calls on schools to introduce lessons on internet safety and tech giants to do more to protect youngsters from harmful content online.

It says the firms have a “duty of care” to users and should establish a voluntary code of conduct before ministers introduce new laws.

They should work to implement effective age verification to keep underage kids off their sites and ensure ads are age appropriate.

Youngsters must also be shielded from addictive content and photos that “normalise” self-harm, suicide and anorexia.

The CMOs say the tech industry should fund a decade of research on the health impact of screen time and share usage data with researchers to aid this work.

It follows calls from NHS England boss Simon Stevens for social media firms to fund treatment of mental health problems caused by the sites.

Prof Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “Time spent online can be of great benefit to children and young people, providing opportunities for learning and skills development, as well as allowing young people to find support and information.

“But we need to take a precautionary approach and our advice will support children to reap these benefits and protect them from harm.

“Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care.

“They must make more effort to keep their users safe from harm, particularly children and young people.”

Other guidelines say mums and dads should tell kids to put their screens away when crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention.

And they should set a good example by limiting their own screen time to focus on face-to-face conversation.

They should also check with their children before posting family photos online.

Shirley Cramer, from the Royal Society for Public Health, said parents have been “crying out for guidance” to protect their kids in a “Wild West digital world”.

Prof Russell Viner, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The lack of scientific evidence means it is impossible to recommend specific time limits to children and families.

Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care

“Instead, we suggest that parents make decisions about screen time based on their child’s development and health, and whether they are getting enough exercise and sleep.

“It remains a question of balance, as it is when screen use gets in the way or restricts other activities that a child’s well-being can be negatively impacted.”

Andy Burrows, from the NSPCC, said: “We are pleased that the Chief Medical Officer has joined the NSPCC in calling for a legal duty of care to force social networks to protect children.

“She is right to recognise that urgent action is necessary.

“For over a decade tech giants have failed to protect their young users and we can’t waste any more time waiting for them to clean up their act.

“We urge the Government to legislate without delay, to make social networks accountable and punish them if they fail to keep children safe.”

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