Warn­ing over use of screens be­fore bed­time

Study high­lights im­pact on health of young­sters

Sunday Sun - - News - NI­COLE MOR­LEY Re­porter ni­cole.mor­[email protected]­plc.com

PAR­ENTS should avoid let­ting their chil­dren use mo­bile phones, tablets or com­put­ers an hour be­fore bed­time and agree screen time lim­its, ac­cord­ing to new of­fi­cial guid­ance.

Experts say look­ing at screens such as phones, tablets or com­put­ers in the hour be­fore bed can dis­rupt sleep and im­pact chil­dren’s health and well­be­ing.

Mean­while, spend­ing long pe­ri­ods on the gad­gets is as­so­ci­ated with un­healthy eat­ing and a lack of ex­er­cise.

Is­su­ing the first of­fi­cial guide­lines on screen time, the Royal Col­lege of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health rec­om­mended time lim­its and a cur­few, but said par­ents need not worry that us­ing the de­vices is harm­ful in it­self.

Par­ents are of­ten told that gad­gets can pose a risk to their chil­dren, but they can in fact be a valu­able tool for chil­dren to ex­plore the world, the col­lege said.

Nev­er­the­less, screen time should not re­place ac­tiv­i­ties such as ex­er­cis­ing, sleep­ing and spend­ing time with fam­ily.

The col­lege has drawn up four ques­tions to help par­ents judge if their chil­dren are us­ing screens in a healthy way: Is your fam­ily’s screen time un­der con­trol? Does screen use in­ter­fere with what your fam­ily want to do? Does screen use in­ter­fere with sleep? Are you able to con­trol snack­ing dur­ing screen time?

Dr Max Davie, the col­lege’s of­fi­cer for health pro­mo­tion, said: “When it comes to screen time I think it is im­por­tant to en­cour­age par­ents to do what is right by their fam­ily. How­ever, we know this is a grey area and par­ents want sup­port and that’s why we have pro­duced this guide.

“We sug­gest age-ap­pro­pri­ate bound­aries are es­tab­lished, ne­go­ti­ated by par­ent and child. When these bound­aries are not re­spected, con­se­quences need to be put in place.

“It is also im­por­tant that adults in the fam­ily re­flect on their own level of screen time in or­der to have a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on younger mem­bers.”

The col­lege rec­om­mended that screens are not used for an hour be­fore bed­time due to ev­i­dence that the de­vices stim­u­late the brain, while the blue light they pro­duce dis­rupts the body’s cre­ation of the sleep hor­mone mela­tonin.

They also warned watch­ing screens can dis­tract chil­dren from feel­ing full which, paired with ad­ver­tis­ing, can lead to higher in­take of un­healthy foods. The col­lege is­sued the ad­vice as a re­view pub­lished by the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal found “con­sid­er­able ev­i­dence” of an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween obe­sity and de­pres­sion and high lev­els of screen time.

How­ever it said ev­i­dence for im­pacts on other health is­sues was “largely weak or ab­sent”.

The study’s au­thors said: “Given the rapid in­crease in screen use by chil­dren and young peo­ple in­ter­na­tion­ally over the past decade, par­tic­u­larly for new con­tent ar­eas such as so­cial media, fur­ther re­search is ur­gently needed to un­der­stand the im­pact of the con­texts and con­tent of screen use on chil­dren and young peo­ple’s health and well­be­ing, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion­ship to mo­bile dig­i­tal de­vices.”

■ Over-use of screens can lead to obe­sity and de­pres­sion among chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to a study

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