Turn off children’s gadgets ‘an hour before bedtime’

Parents should avoid letting their children use mobile phones or tablets an hour before bedtime, according to experts.

Doctors said there was now ‘clear scientific evidence’ that looking at screens such as smartphones and laptops can disrupt sleep and impact children’s health.

They c;aimed that spending long periods on gadgets was also directly linked to unhealthy eating and obesity.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommended time limits although did not suggest what these should be.

It also said screen time should not replace healthy 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 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.’

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 that watching screens can distract children from feeling full which, paired with advertising, can lead to higher intake of unhealthy foods.