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    Expert: We Need to Talk to Children About Kinds of Things They Might Find Online

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    "Mobile phones should be banned from the dinner table", "Don't cross the road while using your phone" and "Children should not be allowed access to phones before bed." Those are just some of the suggestions made by the UK's four chief medical officers. Sputnik spoke about it to Bob Patton, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Surrey.

    Sputnik: This year alone we've seen conflicting reports about the use of screen time when dealing with phones, especially in relation to children, how much of an issue is Screen Time?

    Bob Patton: It's been something that's been in the news quite a lot recently, there have been several reports out on the topic. And I think there's a couple of main issues. First of all: about the content and context of what's actually seen on the screens. And, you know, the effect of this can have 1 young people and secondly just the general effective of being with screens, watching screens, when screens get in the way of socialization, family activities, you know, it's a sedentary activity so people aren't exercising and it can get in the way of proper rest and proper sleep if we have light and phones and activity in the bedroom at night.

    And with regard to the first one, the content and context of is seen. I think it's important to realize that a lot of the evidence that we have so far just really refers to the total amount of time is spent on screens and doesn't really focus on what's happening with that. So I'm sure you're looking at a screen now, I'm looking at a screen now. Not all screen use is detrimental. So like I said, the content and context of what's being done needs to be taken into account. And that's when more research is needed.

    Sputnik: Much of the Government's advice could be boiled down to common sense; is this was a waste of time for the government to put so much effort into?

    Bob Patton: It is common sense, that doesn't make it any less valid. I think it's good to have these things sort of set out in the form of a set of recommendations. And yes, some of them, some of them do seem, you know, quite sensible, and, you know, quite common sense, looking at the ones like 'Don't use your phone whilst you're crossing the road' and things like that. Obviously, that's something that shouldn't happen. And I think just drawing a line under that to say that this is not a good idea. It can't be a bad thing.

    Sputnik: With near unlimited content online, what is the best way to protect children from being exposed to harmful imagery online?

    Bob Patton: Well, I mean, there needs to be some way I think to restrict access to this type of content and something beyond simple putting in you Date of Birth, which is quite a common way of testing age, I think on these on these sites.

    So there's probably some sort of technological solution out there needs to be found and accessed that would help to limit the content to make it age appropriate. And also, something around what is harmful content? I think we need to have discussions we need to talk to our children about the kinds of things that they might find online.

    READ MORE: Internet-Connected Toys Could Let Hackers Access Your Children

    Sputnik: Many of the issues with parents and children can come down to computer literacy. Previous generations may have been less computer literate than their children but as the knowledge gap decreases could we see parents be more aware of what their children have access to?

    Logo of Google on the front door of the new Google European tech center in Zurich, Switzerland
    © AP Photo / Keystone, Walter Bier, file
    Bob Patton: Yeah, I mean, I think it's an ongoing issue, and there's always going to be new technology. Screens are going to go away or maybe they'll be replaced by something else. But, you know, the provision of information is what this is about, isn't it? As much as the fact that it's presented on the screen and yes, I think as time passes, we do need to increase our awareness and understanding.

    And parents do have a, you know, a duty of responsibility to kind of have some awareness of what's going on with their children. And that would involve knowing about the issues about the way that, you know, this information can be accessed and having healthy discussions with them about content and truthfulness and you know, trust issues and all of those things. It just needs to be brought out into the open

    READ MORE: Children in UK Used as Spies 'Necessary Evil' — Security Expert

    Sputnik: Where should the responsibility to protect children fall? The parents or providers?

    Bob Patton: I think both parents and providers have to take some degree of responsibility to protect children the parents have to be aware of what the kids are doing and you know it's already mentioned digital literacy there before and providers need to step in to limit access where appropriate.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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