Nordic ministers express concern about the link between screen time and children and young people’s wellbeing

Online content has both positive and negative effects. Digital solutions may well have positive effects on social interaction, but studies have also shown that spending more time on screens and using smartphones from an early age both have adverse effects on children and young people’s sleep, wellbeing and self-esteem.  

The ministers will explore how the Nordic countries can work together and implement measures to address these problems. 

“Children and young people now spend much of their free time on screens, socialising and searching for knowledge and information. However, we are deeply concerned about the harmful effects on their health and wellbeing of spending more time on screens.

We will increase the pressure on tech companies to assume responsibility and take measures to minimise the negative effects their products have on children and young people.”

MR-S statement after its meeting in Stockholm. 

Boris Vasic

Researcher recommends more mobile-free zones

Sissela Nutley, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, addressed the ministers. She referred to Nordic and international research on the subject that shows clear cumulative and negative effects on mental health related to how early children have access to smartphones and that the percentage of teenagers who sleep six hours or less has gone up in the last decade as more people sleep with their phones in the room. 

She strongly recommended that the ministers work together on the issue, starting with concepts like mobile-free zones – and not just in schools.

“We need to help children and young people create more mobile-free zones. They need to learn from us to put devices away during social interaction – otherwise, people don’t remember what is said. Mobile-free zones can include anywhere we spend time with other people, not just in schools.”

Jakob Forssmed, the Swedish Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health, agrees and thinks that the Nordic Region should accelerate efforts in this area.

MR-S working groups are expected to draw up recommendations on the matter later this year.