Last week, Anne Longfield, launched a campaign to help parents regulate internet and smartphone use at home. She suggested that the overconsumption of social media was a problem akin to that of junk-food diets. “None of us, as parents, would want our children to eat junk food all the time – double cheeseburger, chips, every day, every meal,” she said. “For those same reasons, we shouldn’t want our children to do the same with their online time.”
A few days later, former GCHQ spy agency chief Robert Hannigan responded to the campaign. “The assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted needs challenging. It is driven by fear,” he said. “The best thing we can do is to focus less on the time they spend on screens at home and more on the nature of the activity.”
This exchange is just one more example of how children’s screentime has become an emotive, contested issue.