Letting children use phones before school is damaging and homework on computers should be banned, claims psychologist
- Clinical psychologist Linda Blair has told parents to discourage children from looking at phone or computer screens before school
- She warned that the screens can damage their concentration
- Miss Blair has also called for a ban on schools giving screen homework
- And said children with ADHD can benefit from ‘screen management’
Parents should discourage children from looking at phone and computer screens before school because it can damage their concentration.
Clinical psychologist Linda Blair also called for a ban on schools giving homework that needs to be done on computers as this is contributing to children becoming tired and unfocused.
She told the Cheltenham Science Festival ‘It makes me mad because a lot of schools are doing screen homework. It’s so stupid! I wish they wouldn’t do that.’
The blue light emitted from computer screens has been shown to push down the levels of melatonin, a chemical produced by the body that helps us have a restful sleep.
And screen use before school can raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol which make it harder to concentrate, she said.
In her experience as a clinician, discouraging screen use among young people ‘was not a popular move’
‘But when they try it they can be transformed. I encourage people to try it for a couple of days.’
TABLET USE AMONG CHILDREN
According to new research by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, most children over five share a tablet with another member of their family, but a third have one of their own.
A surprisingly high number of toddlers – one in ten – also have their own tablet device, which can cost up to £739 ($1,113).
Children aged five to 16 now spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen, compared with around three hours in 1995, according to Childwise, the market research firm.
And teenage boys are the worst offenders, spending an average of eight hours a day in front of a screen.
Many of those adult users will be using the devices to check emails, social networks or surf the internet, as they would do an ordinary computer.
However, a sizable tranche of those – 15 per cent – are regularly pick up their tablets to play games, such as Halo and Candy Crush Saga.
Miss Blair said children coming to her clinic with suspected Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) would generally see some improvement if they practised ‘screen management’.
She admitted that it is difficult, especially with teenagers, to agree.
‘Their job description is to defy you’, but she advised parents may have success if they set an example and limit their own screen use.
‘You have to stay off screens yourself,’ she said, ‘And nobody wants to do that.’
She criticised school screen homework while answering a question from a mother how to restrict her childrens’ access to screens – phones computers and PlayStations.
Families have to be disciplined about the use of screens – with parents being good role models, she said.
‘Try and establish one point in the day where the family focuses on each other. That used to be called ‘dinner’! – all screens off and you actually talk to each other.
‘They will moan, but ten years from now they will remember it and thank you.
‘You have to set limits. You can’t ban these things. Kids have got to know how to manage their screens and be in control.
Miss Blair said children coming to her clinic with suspected ADHD would generally see some improvement if they practised ‘screen management’. She admitted it is difficult, especially with teenagers (stock image), to agree, but advised parents may have success if they set an example and limit their own screen use
Miss Blair, author of the book ‘The Key to Calm’ was talking at the Festival about practicing mindfulness and its role in combating stress.
In 2010, research from the University of Bristol advocated parents limiting children’s use of screens for two hours a day.
The study found that children who used screens more heavily were more likely to agree with statements such as ‘I am unhappy’ compared to children who got regular exercise.