by Dr Aric Sigman
Health Education Lecturer, Fellow of the Society of Biology, Associate Fellow of the British
The EU discusses many aspects of its citizens’ lives. Yet the main waking activity of Europeans – watching screen media – has never been thought of as an issue requiring parliamentary consideration. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching TV than they do in school (Zimmerman et al 2007a). The average seven-year-old will have already watched screen media for more than one full year of 24-hour days. By age 18 the average European young person will have spent a full 4 years of 24-hour days in front of a screen. But screen time is no longer merely a cultural issue about how children spend their leisure time. Screen time has now become a medical issue. Research published in the world’s most reputable medical and scientific journals shows that the sheer amount of time children spend watching TV, DVDs, computers and the internet is linked with significant measurable biological changes in their bodies and brains that may have significant medical consequences.Given that children undergoing key stages of development are spending increasingly large parts of their lives watching screen media, the EU must take a serious interest and establish a view on the matter. The following will provide the reasons why.