Does Too Much Phone Time Affect Our Kids?

Does your child or teen always seem to be glued to their smartphone? If you’ve ever wondered how this could affect them, you’re not alone.

According to a new study presented at the 60th annual meeting of the European Society of Pediatric Endocrinology, blue light emitted from phone and tablet screens may alter certain levels of hormones, and increase the chance of early puberty in children.

Researchers believe this is related to how blue light suppresses the release of melatonin – a hormone that helps control the sleep cycle. One of the researchers, Dr Aylin Klink Ogurlu, from Ankara City Hospital in Turkey, said: “Because this is a study in mice, we cannot be certain that these findings will be replicated in children, but these data suggest that exposure to blue light can be considered a risk factor for the onset of puberty. early”.

With smartphones now such a huge part of our daily lives (and many apps designed to be addictive), it’s no wonder people want to pay attention to their use.

So how can screens and smartphones affect children and teens? Here are three areas you might want to consider…

Sleeps

Children who spend a lot of time in front of screens may sleep less refreshed (Alamy/PA)

Just as phones can affect the sleep of adults, the same is true of young ones.

According to a 2020 study published in Clinical Sleep Medicine, “excessive smartphone use was associated with shorter total sleep time in children.” (Overuse is categorized as more than an hour a day.) In addition to sleep duration, sleep quality was also found to decrease.

“Blue light from electronic devices can affect children’s sleep, especially when used close to bedtime, as it affects melatonin production,” says Dr. Maite Veren, MD, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Re: Cognition Health.

“It is important to either reduce or ideally stop using electronic devices and smartphones before bed, and also to avoid using them for long periods of time throughout the day.”

Anxiety and focus

A 2018 study published in Preventive Medicine Reports suggested that “more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in ages 2-17,” and “higher screen users.” [classed as seven-plus hours a day] They showed less curiosity, self-control and emotional stability.”

Among people aged 14-17, it was found that people who were classified as high screen users were twice as likely to develop anxiety or depression.

“We know that smartphones can harm children’s health and well-being,” says Yasmine Eskenzi, founder of The Zensory, a wellness and productivity app. “However, we cannot change how digital natives use technology – these cultural advances have occurred, and we just have to do our best.” To use these tools for positive use and create healthy habits and behaviors.

“There are ways to use smartphones in a positive way, to enable people to learn preventive mental health strategies such as mindfulness, meditation and positive thinking,” she adds, noting that with healthy boundaries, there can be a lot of positives to communicating via technology.

Young people can find like-minded communities, as well as watch and participate in exercise classes and fitness content on their phones. If we can encourage young people to engage more with healthy educational content, inspiring communities, and the huge empowering potential of smartphones — we can see young people thrive and not just survive,” says Eskenzi.

Everyone needs healthy phone limits (Alamy/PA)

“Habits and behavior need to be changed, to prevent young people from navigating anxiously on social media, and instead teach them how they can live healthier – this has to come with systemic and cultural changes to enforce this in tandem.”

What about focus and concentration? Vereen notes that, “Prolonged use of devices also reduces attention span in children and may affect other brain functions, including our ability to remember things.”

“Using smartphones in moderation and establishing boundaries with children is key to reducing these symptoms.”

eyes

While screen time won’t give kids the square eyes, as parents would have us in previous decades, too much of it may still affect them.

“Excessive use of smartphones can harm the vision of children and people of all ages,” says Ferrin.

Excessive strain can be placed on the eyes, which can lead to fluctuating vision, eyestrain, eye fatigue, and headaches, as well as neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Excessive use of smartphones can increase the risk of eye symptoms such as nearsightedness [short-sightedness] and ocular surface disease, leading to dry eye syndrome and blepharitis.”