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Concerns raised over increased screen time for Wrexham school pupils during coronavirus pandemic

CONCERNS have been raised over the increased amount of time children are spending in front of computer screens during the coronavirus pandemic.

School pupils have had to switch to online learning from home on a number of occasions throughout the crisis due to the risk of spreading the virus.

Worries had already been voiced before the outbreak regarding how much time youngsters spend on game consoles and handheld devices, as well as the impact on their mental and emotional development.

Some health researchers have warned that the rise in screen time during the pandemic could also lead to a spike in cases of short-sightedness and sleep problems.

A Wrexham councillor has now called for other ways of learning to be explored to protect the well-being of schoolchildren in the area.

Cllr Rob Walsh, who represents Llay, said he was also anxious about the strain placed on parents by home-schooling.

Addressing education officials at a virtual meeting held onThursday, (11 February), he said: “I am concerned about the amount of screen time many children are having.

“They’re probably spending a lot of time on their laptops then once they’ve finished their work they’re going to go onto their Xboxes.

“Are you advising schools of any methods to encourage pupils to only spend so much time on their screens and to do other forms of learning as well or even have some downtime?”

“Linked to that, how is support being given to parents? Because I have spoken to a few parents who say they feel as if they’re failures.

“I don’t believe that at all and I’m sure they’ve done their very best but because they don’t come from an educational background, they’re stuck in all day and trying to home educate their children, they do feel as if they’re letting them down.”

Experts have provided mixed views about how long children should spend in front of screens.

The UK’s chief medical officers have said there is not enough scientific evidence to produce guidelines.

However, the World Health Organisation recommended in 2019 that youngsters aged two to five should have no more than one hour a day.

Schools in most of Wales are set to re-open for pupils aged three to seven from February 22.

But with infection rates higher than other parts of the country, children will not be returning to schools in Wrexham until February 26 at the very earliest.

Karen Evans, Wrexham Council’s chief officer for education and early intervention services, said schools were keeping a close eye on the amount of screen time children were having.

Speaking to members of the local authority’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee, she said: “I think the amount of screen time children have has been a cause for concern before the pandemic.

“We’ve had regular discussions about the amount of time children spend on their Xboxes and so on.

“One of our challenges when children begin to return to some sense of normality is supporting our children to re-enter the school environment and establish those routines in the classroom.”

She added: “What we’re really mindful of is the requirement to support children with online learning is a difficult challenge for parents, particularly for parents who are working from home and have to balance their time.

“I know schools have worked very closely with the community to do their best to support parents during this time.”

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