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Campaign aims to stop children 'bingeing' on the internet

Children's Commissioner says social media time should be rationed 'like junk food'

Mark Gould

Monday, 07 August 2017

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, has launched a Digital 5 A Day campaign to help parents and children use social media in a safe and balanced way.

The campaign provides a simple framework that reflects the concerns of parents/ carers as well as children’s behaviours and needs. Ms Longfield says it can also act as a base for family agreements about internet and digital device use throughout both the holidays and term time.

Based on the NHS’s evidence-based ‘Five steps to better mental wellbeing’, the 5 A Day campaign gives children and parents easy to follow, practical steps to achieve a healthy and balanced digital diet.

She said the 5 elements of a good digital diet are: connect, be active, get creative, give to others, be mindful.

Launching the campaign Ms Longfield said that the amount of time that children are online is increasing, with very young children routinely spending over 8 hours a week and 12-15 year olds spending over 20 hours a week online.

"With the summer holidays in full flow, social media is often a constant presence on kids’ iPads, smart phones and computers. While most parents understand that digital is just a part of life for children now, and of course many mums, dads and carers spend time online doing similar things themselves, they want to be confident that their children are living a healthy online life," she said.

Ms Longfield stressed that parents should be afraid of children’s digital lives, "but what they should avoid doing is allowing their children to use the internet and social media in the same way they would use sweets or junk food given half the chance".

"You wouldn’t let an 8-year-old eat a double cheeseburger and fries every day of the year, so it’s important children aren’t left to use smart phones, computers or tablets without agreed boundaries. It doesn’t have to be about restriction and control – which is unlikely to win over any child anyway – but something children will often love: working out together a good way to be online."

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