UK claim denying kids screen time is child abuse - a ‘controversial’ conversation starter says Kiwi psychologist

A New Zealand child psychologist has poured cold water on a UK sociologist's claim that banning kids from technology is tantamount to child abuse, but admits it is a "controversial" conversation starter.

Child psychologist Dr Emma Woodward says there are benefits to technology, but a "well rounded" childhood is the priority. Source: Breakfast

Psychologist Dr Emma Woodward said there's no denying the benefits technology can provide for children, but a "well rounded" childhood is the goal, and that includes outdoor frivolities like climbing trees and getting dirty.

There are also known risks with children getting too much screen time, Dr Woodward says.

"We do know there are associated risks with obesity and type-2 diabetes," she said.

"There's also an impact on expressive language, the words that children use to express themselves, and we don't actually know how the neurotransmitter dopamine that's released when we use screens, how that impacts on a developing brain yet - we're not sure about that so the message would be to exercise caution."

Dr Woodward said the human attraction to screens is related to this dopamine release, because screens provide two key psychological rewards.

"We are social animals and we crave connection, so screens potentially, they play to two of our very deep needs, so reward and connection.

When we pick up a screen and go on the internet we are instantly gratified and that's why we like screens so much.

So, yes we do need to make sure our relationship and our interaction with screens are not at the cost of other experiences that we need to develop."

Some of the potential harm from this could be a decreased ability to recognise non-verbal cues during communication with others, and the natural curiosity that grows with outdoor exploration.