Parents have been warned not to let their children use mobile phones, tablets or computers an hour before bedtime in order to avoid disrupted sleep and affect their health and well-being.
Issuing the first official guidelines on screen time, Britain’s 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.
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 to support and that’s why we have produced this guide.
“We suggest that age-appropriate boundaries are established, negotiated by parent and child that everyone in the family understands.
“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.”
They also warned that 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 higher levels of screen time.
However, it said evidence for impacts on other health issues was “largely weak or absent”.
“Any potential limits on screen time must be considered in the light of a lack of understanding of the impact of the content or contexts of digital screen use,” 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 well-being, particularly in relationship to mobile digital devices.”Tags: