Play and screen time
Digital technology has become an important part of many children’s and teenagers’ lives and many of them use technology to play every day.
‘Digital technology’ is a broad term that refers to smart phones, tablets, computer games consoles, social media and television.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child acknowledges the concerns and challenges that digital platforms present but calls for a balanced approach. General Comment no. 17 encourages countries that have signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to ensure that all children have equal opportunity to experience the benefits of internet access. General Comment no. 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment explains this further.
Online relationships are important to children’s and teenagers’ lives. They report that there are benefits to using technology, for example:
- establishing and maintaining friendships
- learning about the world
- having fun
- making arrangements to meet up and play with friends.
Some studies have found a link between playing computer games and mental wellbeing. Disabled children and those with low self-esteem have said that, in moderation, gaming and using digital technology can give them a sense of belonging.
Although many children enjoy this kind of play, they also tell us they enjoy activities in their own communities that are not technology related. They say they would like more opportunities to play that don’t involve technology. For this, they benefit from the input of supportive adults who help develop a rich and varied play environment.
Digital technology needs to be part of a wide range of choices of play experiences and opportunities. It might be seen as one element of a ‘balanced diet’ of play with equal importance placed on:
- active, physical play
- playing with the elements
- all the other types and behaviours of play that all children need in their everyday lives.
Screen time tips for parents
On our Playful Childhoods website there is a range of top tips to help parents support their children in balancing screen time with other activities, such as playing outdoors.
Top tips for screen time
Simple ideas to support parents in finding a solution to the challenges that screen time brings.
Screen time for babies and toddlers
Alternative suggestions to screen time for parents of young children – at home and when out – to support their children’s development.
Screen time for teenagers
Tips for parents of teenagers about how to find a reasonable balance between time spent on screens and time for other fun, social activities.