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Time for a view on screen time
  1. Aric Sigman
  1. Correspondence to Dr A Sigman, Office 444, 91 Western Road, Brighton BN1 2NW, UK; aric{at}aricsigman.com

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Introduction

In Britain today, children by the age of 10 years have regular access to an average of five different screens at home. In addition to the main family television, for example, many very young children have their own bedroom TV along with portable handheld computer game consoles (eg, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox), smartphone with games, internet and video, a family computer and a laptop and/or a tablet computer (eg, iPad). Children routinely engage in two or more forms of screen viewing at the same time, such as TV and laptop.1 Viewing is starting earlier in life. Nearly one in three American infants has a TV in their bedroom, and almost half of all infants watch TV or DVDs for nearly 2 h/day.2

Across the industrialised world, watching screen media is the main pastime of children. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching TV than they spend in school.3 When including computer games, internet and DVDs, by the age of seven years, a child born today will have spent one full year of 24 h days watching screen media. By the age of 18 years, the average European child will have spent 3 years of 24 h days watching screen media; at this rate, by the age of 80 years, they will have spent 17.6 years4 glued to media screens.

Yet, irrespective of the content or educational value of what is being viewed, the sheer amount of average daily screen time (ST) during discretionary hours after school is increasingly being considered an independent risk factor for disease, and is recognised as such by other governments and medical bodies but not, however, in Britain or in most of the EU. To date, views of the British and European medical establishments on increasingly high levels of child ST remain conspicuous …

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