A group of leading authors, educationalists and child-development experts is calling on the government to introduce national guidelines on the use of screens, amid concern about the impact on children’s physical and mental health.
It is one of a series of measures outlined in a letter to the Guardian, highlighting what it describes as the increasingly “toxic” nature of childhood, and signed by 40 senior figures, including the author Philip Pullman, the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the psychotherapist Susie Orbach and the childcare expert Penelope Leach
The letter urges the government to create a cabinet-level minister for children, with specific responsibility for auditing all government policies in order to assess their impact on children’s health and wellbeing.
It calls for the development of kindergarten-style education for three- to seven-year-olds, with emphasis on social and emotional development and outdoor play; and says guidelines on screen-based technology for children up to 12 should be drawn up by recognised authorities on child health and development.
It is 10 years since the group sent its first letter to the media, expressing concern about the way it believes children’s health and wellbeing are being undermined by “the decline of outdoor play, increasingly screen-based lifestyles, a hyper-competitive schooling system and the unremitting commercialisation of childhood”.
Since then, they say, policy making has been “half-hearted, short-termist and disjointedly ineffective”, with obesity and mental health problems among young people approaching crisis levels.
“If children are to develop the self-regulation and emotional resilience required to thrive in modern technological culture, they need unhurried engagement with caring adults and plenty of self-directed outdoor play, especially during their early years (0–7),” the letter reads