Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette

Do kids need a screen break?

Phones and screens are a big part of our lives – but how are they affecting children? IMY BRIGHTY-POTTS finds out


IS YOUR child or teenager seemingly always glued to their smartphone?

If you’ve ever wondered how this might be impacting them, you’re not alone.

According to a new study presented at the 60th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinol­ogy meeting, the blue light emitted from phone and tablet screens may alter hormone levels, and increase the chance of early puberty.

Researcher­s believe this is linked to how blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin – a hormone that helps control the sleep cycle.

Researcher Dr Aylin Kilinc Ugurlu, from Ankara City Hospital in Turkey, said: “As this is a rat study, we can’t be sure that these findings would be replicated in children, but these data suggest that blue light exposure could be considered as a risk factor for earlier puberty onset.”

So, how else might screens and smartphone­s be having an affect?


According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “Excessive smartphone use was related to shorter total sleep time in children”.

Overuse was classed as more than an hour a day.

Quality of sleep was found to be reduced, as well as quantity.

“The blue light stemming from electronic devices can affect children’s sleep, particular­ly when used close to bedtime, as they affect the production of melatonin,” says Dr Maite Ferrin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatri­st at Re:Cognition Health (recognitio­n

She advises a decrease, or ideally cease using electronic devices and smartphone­s before bed, and avoid long periods of use during the day.


A 2018 study published in the Preventati­ve Medicine Reports suggested that “more hours of screen time are associated with lower wellbeing in ages two to 17”, and “high users of screens [seven-plus hours a day] show less curiosity, self-control, and emotional stability”.

Among 14- to 17-year-olds, those classed as high users of screens were found to be more than twice as likely to have been diag-nosed with anxiety or depression.

Jasmine Eskenzi, founder of The Zensory (, a wellbeing and productivi­ty app, says: “There are ways of using smartphone­s in a positive way, to empower people to learn preventati­ve mental health strategies such as mindfulnes­s, meditation and positive thinking. If we can encourage young people to engage more with the healthy educationa­l content, inspiring communitie­s, and wildly empowering capabiliti­es of smartphone­s – we can see young people thriving and not just surviving.”

Dr Ferrin adds: “The prolonged use of devices also reduces the attention span in children and may impact other functions of the brain, including our ability to remember things. Using smartphone­s in moderation and establishi­ng boundaries with children is key to reducing these symptoms.”


“Overusing smartphone­s could be detrimenta­l to the vision of children and people of all ages,” says Dr Ferrin. “Excess stress can be placed on the eyes, which can cause fluctuatin­g vision, eye strain, eye fatigue, headaches, as well as neck, shoulder and back pain.

“Overuse of smartphone­s could potentiall­y increase the risk of ocular symptoms such as myopia [short-sightednes­s] and ocular surface disease, leading to dry eye syndrome and blephariti­s.”

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 ?? ?? Blue light from a smartphone can affect sleep in children and adults
Blue light from a smartphone can affect sleep in children and adults
 ?? ?? Dr Maite Ferrin (above) and Jasmine Eskenzi
Dr Maite Ferrin (above) and Jasmine Eskenzi

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