Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Turn off children’s gadgets an hour before bedtime, parents advised

Image Shutterstock  SFIO CRACHO Image Shutterstock SFIO CRACHO
Celia Hoffman | 04 January, 2019, 17:20

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.

The guidance, released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the United Kingdom, says it is impossible to recommend age appropriate time limits, but does, however, recommend avoiding screens an hour before bedtime to help children sleep better, according to a press statement.

But, the RCPCH states that "many of the apparent connections" between screen time and harmful effects "may be mediated by lost opportunities for positive activities (socialising, exercise, sleep) that are displaced by screen time".

Instead, parents should judge whether screen time in their household is controlled or if it interferes with family life, sleep or meal times.

Does screen use interfere with sleep? "We can't put the genie back in bottle".

The college said it was not setting time limits for children because there was not enough evidence that screen time was harmful to child health at any age.

Children should not watch television or go online within an hour of bedtime, doctors have recommended.

Studies in this area are limited but during our research analysis, we couldn't find any consistent evidence for any specific health or wellbeing benefits of screen time, and although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are causal, or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time.

He said: 'It's very hard to impose [overall] strict limits on your children's screen use if you are constantly on screens yourself.

More news: Manchester City could be banned from Champions League — UEFA's chief investigator

"The evidence base for a direct "toxic" effect of screen time is contested, and the evidence of harm is often overstated", reads the guidance.

He said: "There is evidence that strong light into the brain before bedtime reduces the secretion of melatonin, and therefore it can be more hard to get to sleep.' Stopping use an hour before bedtime was therefore 'sensible advice", he added.

While there are night modes on many phones, computers and tablets, there is no evidence these are effective, the college said.

In a United Kingdom first, the college has published guidance created to help parents manage their children's screen time.

Technology such as tablets and apps are increasingly used as educational tools, which is widely beneficial and would blur the lines if children were suggested limits, he said.

As children get older, there should be a move towards them having autonomy over screen use, but this should be gradual and under the guidance of an adult, the college said.

"However, we know this is a grey area and parents want support, and that's why we have produced this guide".

Dr Davie added: 'We suggest that age appropriate boundaries are established, negotiated by parent and child that everyone in the family understands.

The guidance came as a study found that teenagers who spent long hours on social media were twice as likely to show symptoms of depression, with girls affected more.

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