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Issue 14 | 3rd November 2023

Hello and welcome to your L&D Newsletter.

Happy Friday. Welcome to this weeks Learning and development newsletter. We at the BSP hope you have had a successful week and that you are looking forward to your weekend.

Some things you need to know…

Research in Practice have recently published a briefing aimed at health professionals involved in safeguarding children and young adults accessing healthcare – from practitioners and managers through to commissioners, strategic leaders, and others with accountability for safeguarding in health services. It will also be useful for those who don’t usually work with young people and/or young adults directly but provide care or support to their family members or carers. See: Research in Practice - Transitional Safeguarding.

Please share details of this KoothTalks a webinar aimed at parents and carers: Eventbrite - How Kooth promotes and supports staying safe online. The webinar is taking place at 12pm to 1pm or 6pm to 7pm on 6 November 2023.

Dates for your diaries

  • Adult safeguarding week 20th to 24th November 2023
  • Safeguarding adults board launch and learning day, 21st November 2023
  • January 16th 2024, Bury Safeguarding Childrens Partnership Learning day
  • Domestic abuse awareness half day 6th December 2023 and full day 11th December 2023.

Screens and the impact of them on children and young people’s development

The average child spends over fifty-two hours a week in front of electronic media. This has become a big parenting challenge. While recreational screens - video games, smartphones, social media - can be entertaining and fun, they are not designed with a child’s best interests at heart…

The past decade has seen an unprecedented rise in numbers of referrals to occupational therapists for children with disorders such as printing and reading delays, attention and learning difficulties behaviour problems, (Davidson & Bressler, 2010).

Children who overuse fast paced technologies such as video games, are ‘pruning’ their brains to not access their frontal lobes, known for executive function and impulse control. (Small 2008, Murray 2006).

It takes 25 years for the brain to fully develop and mature

The human brain starts forming just three weeks after conception. At birth, the baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons. What changes throughout childhood are the connections between these neurons, called neuronal pathways. It was once believed that brain maturity followed physical development, but now we know that, while a teen may be physically taller than you, his or her brain is not fully connected yet. The emotion centre of the brain develops before the judgment centre which is not fully mature until the mid-twenties.

A child’s activities will change and shape his brain

Neuronal pathways are activity-dependent and reinforced through repeated use. Like dirt roads being paved, areas of the brain are strengthened based on frequent use. With enough repetition and practice, hard activities become easier. Exposure to many activities is the goal of childhood in order to form a well-rounded brain.

Neuronal pruning builds efficiency

The goal of a healthy childhood is to build as many brain connections as possible and the goal of the teen years is to build efficiency. The “use it or lose it” principle applies here. The pathways (or activities) that are most used will be kept and strengthened, and those that are the least used will be shut down through a process called neuronal pruning. This process explains the incredible learning potential during this stage of development. It also explains the need to teach children important executive function skills early like planning, organizing, and time management. Without well-developed executive function skills, young children and teens may have trouble with necessary capabilities such as focusing on a task, following directions, cooperating with others, and appropriately handling emotions. Parents are needed to provide structure during this stage. See: The Center for Parenting Education - The Dual Role of Parents: Providing Nurture and Structure.

What does too much screen time do to a child’s brain?

Screen overuse can harm and interrupt early brain development. Learning new skills is hard, but screens are easy. After all, who wants to learn how to tie a shoe when the iPad is calling your name? Screens are designed to be fun and distracting. Because there is only a short window of opportunity for important developmental activities to occur, it is important to pay attention to how we allow our kids to spend their time.

Screen time displaces time spent on important activities in a child’s developmental life. Some of these necessary activities include rough and tumble-free play, in-person social time with peers, reading, time in nature, problem-solving, attachment to family, and sleep.

Screen time triggers dopamine production in the brain which leads to strong habits, dependencies, and cravings for more screen time. This addictive element in all screen activities is impossible for kids to resist, making screen time the activity of choice.

Screen time is designed to keep going, for example, playing in the backyard has a natural ending point (when it gets dark, you must go inside), but screen time doesn’t. The lack of a natural ending point in regard to screen time is one of the largest problems - screen activity is designed to be irresistible and impossible to stop.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study is the first large study done by the National Institutes of Health designed to determine the effects of screen time on more than 11,000 children over a 10-year period. Preliminary findings from the study include:

  • Lower scores on cognitive and language tests: Those who spent more than two hours each day on screens scored lower on cognitive and language tests
  • Premature thinning of the frontal cortex: MRIs found significant differences in the brains of some kids who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. The executive function area (frontal cortex) of the brain is the area of the brain that processes information from the five senses. This thinning or pruning is normally seen much later in development
  • Lower crystallized intelligence: The thinning in the cortex was correlated with lower ‘crystallized’ intelligence. Crystalized intelligence is basically considered to be general knowledge acquired before learning. It is language and general world knowledge and is measured by vocabulary understanding and reading comprehension.

How long should a child be on a device?

It is important to remember that screentime is an entertainment activity, not a mandatory activity. In an ideal setting, children should have very little entertainment screen time, but cultural trends do not always line up with the best choices for healthy mental, physical, and emotional development.

The two important things to keep in mind are time and content. Limiting time is necessary, but the content is also important. Enjoying two hours of a family movie together is very different from spending two hours scrolling content on social media.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), parents may not know what their children are viewing, or how much time they are spending with screens.

Children may be exposed to:

  • Videos of stunts or challenges that may inspire unsafe behaviour
  • Violence and risk-taking behaviours
  • Sexual content
  • Negative stereotypes
  • Substance use
  • Cyberbullies and predators
  • Advertising aimed at
  • Misleading or inaccurate information

Too much screen time overall affects a child’s brain development and can contribute to the following:

  • Sleep problems
  • Lower grades in school
  • Reading fewer books
  • Less time with family and friends
  • Not enough outdoor or physical activity
  • Weight problems
  • Mood problems
  • Poor self-image and body image issues and fear of missing out…

Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)

See: American Academy of Pediatrics for a definition of IGD

  • Compared with healthy subjects, Online Gaming Addicts (OGA) individuals showed significant grey matter atrophy in the right orbitofrontal cortex, bilateral insula, and right supplementary motor area. According to tract-based spatial statistics analysis, OGA subjects had significantly reduced FA in the right genu of corpus callosum, bilateral frontal lobe white matter, and right external capsule (Weng et al., 2013)
  • Multiple studies have shown atrophy in grey matter brain processing areas in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control. Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known as the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behaviour, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships
  • Hong and colleagues found reduced cortical thickness in internet-addicted teen boys (Hong 2013), and Yuan et al found reduced cortical thickness in the frontal lobe of online gaming addicts correlated with impairment of a cognitive task (Yuan 2013). Imaging studies have found less efficient information processing and reduced impulse inhibition and increased sensitivity to rewards and insensitivity to loss (Dong & Devito 2013), as well as abnormal spontaneous brain activity associated with poor task performance in youth who have internet addiction (Yuan 2011).

Sextortion and Exploitation

Are all screens bad?

Screens themselves aren't inherently bad and they are here to stay. We need to learn to live with them. Using devices can offer many opportunities, but of course there are risks as well. Most experts think it’s more important to focus on quality over quantity. For example, think about the value of the different screen-based activities (talking with friends and family, doing homework, watching videos, playing games, etc). Going online has many benefits. Whilst there are risks (communication from strangers, violent content, sexual content, etc) there are things that can be done to manage these risks: Childnet - Let's talk about life online (PDF).

How much screen time should children have?

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published guidelines to help parents manage children’s screen time. See: RCPCH - The health impacts of screen time: a guide for clinicians and parents (PDF).

In the first ever screen-time guidance published in the UK, the RCPCH suggests that parents adjust their child’s use of screens based on their developmental age and individual needs.

The guidance says that, while there is not enough evidence to confirm that screens are harmful to child health, screen time should not interrupt positive activities for children such as socialising, exercise and sleep. They do however mention that there is no safe level of screen time… ‘Is there a safe level of screen-time? In short, no – but this doesn’t mean all screen time is harmful’. The NHS and NICE recommend no more than 2 hours a day for children.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) - Screen Time and Children recommend the following:

  • Until 18 months of age, limit screen use to video chatting along with an adult (for example, with a parent who is out of town).
  • Between 18 and 24 months, screen time should be limited to watching educational programming with a caregiver.
  • For children 2-5, limit non-educational screen time to about 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on weekend days.
  • For ages 6 and older, encourage healthy habits and limit activities that include screens. Turn off all screens during family meals and outings. Learn about and use parental controls. Avoid using screens as pacifiers, babysitters, or to stop tantrums. Turn off screens and remove them from bedrooms 30-60 minutes before bedtime.

In the news…

A round up of some articles in the news that may e of interest to you. If you think anything should go in the next newsletter then let us know

Bonfire night is fast approaching Avon safeguarding Board have the following handy videos for fireworks safety:


Please do only book onto training if you can commit to attending.

Bury safeguarding Children Partnership Learning event 16th January, 2024

The Partnership will share with you the new priorities and how each agency is contributing to the safeguarding of children in Bury. Book at: Bury Safeguarding Children's Partnership Learning Event: 16th January 2024.

Safer recruitment

The training is for senior leaders and staff who participate in the recruitment process for employees, the course will enable participants to: undertake Safer Recruitment Consortium accredited training on Safer Recruitment and achieve certification. Go to Safer Recruitment Training - 27th February 2024 for more information and book your place.

Managing allegations training

The training is for senior leaders and staff who participate in the recruitment process for employees, the course will enable participants to:

  • Undertake Safer Recruitment Consortium accredited training on Safer Recruitment and achieve certification plus:
    • Gain an understanding and awareness of offender behaviour
    • Identify key features of staff recruitment that help to deter or prevent the appointment of unsuitable people
    • Consider policies and practices that minimise opportunities for abuse or ensure its prompt reporting
    • Help participants review their policies and practices with a view to creating a culture of vigilance

Go to Safer Recruitment Training - 27th February 2024 for more information and book your place.

Domestic Abuse training

Domestic abuse basic awareness sessions facilitated by Safenet. Half day training sessions to give all practitioners a basic awareness and understanding of domestic abuse:

Domestic Abuse full day training including more comprehensive topics such as:

  • Coercive control stalking and harassment
  • Cuckooing and HBV
  • Recognising and responding to DAV
  • Safety planning, risk assessment and primary aggressor
  • DAV and effects on children and DAV in older adults

Book your Domestic Abuse full day training:

Domestic Abuse Training -11th December 2023, Elizabethan Suite

Forced marriage events

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Home Office unit which leads on the government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. They have offered online workshops about Forced Marriage tailored for Social Care, Police and Registration staff. Find out more and book your places via Eventbrite - HMG Forced Marriage Unit events.

NWTDT / Pathways training brochure

The North West Training and Development Team (NWTDT) and Pathways Associates CIC have shared their brochure bringing together relevant training opportunities for Health and Social Care professionals or anyone who has contact with people with learning disabilities or autistic people as part of their role and who work in the North West. This training is all free to attend for North West teams. All NWTDT / Pathways training is coproduced and will be co-delivered. The criteria for attendance at each workshop is on the relevant flyers. See: TGMJTP - Training Brochure 2023-24 (PDF)

Children’s Partnership lunchtime learning sessions

If your work impacts on children, young people and families then Children’s Partnership lunchtime learning sessions are for you.

The aim is to increase awareness and understanding of issues that might be affecting children, young people and families you are working with so that you can help them get help and support. There is a mix of online and in-person sessions, all held from 12.00 to 1pm. The sessions are free and open to anyone who works with children, young people and families. Topics include: Essential Parent, The importance of speech language and communication pathway across Bury.

See the children’s partnership weekly email for more information. E-mail to book onto a session.

Take a break…

The University of Birmingham has launched a survey as part of research into young people’s sexual behaviour in the UK. The survey is aimed at 13 to 18 year-olds in the UK and the research is seeking to create evidence-based definitions of normal, problematic and harmful sexual behaviours in children and young people.

Stretch out your neck after a tough day working on a laptop/phone: YouTube - After Work Neck and Shoulder Stretches.