How does too much time on the phone affect our children?

How does too much time on the phone affect our children?

Smartphone use has been linked to hormonal changes (Alamy / PA)

Smartphone use has been linked to hormonal changes (Alamy / PA)

Is your child or teenager seemingly always glued to their smartphone? If you’ve ever wondered how this might impact them, you’re not alone.

According to a new study presented at the 60th annual meeting of the European Society of Pediatric Endocrinology, the blue light emitted from the screens of phones and tablets can alter certain hormone levels and increase the chances of precocious puberty in children.

Researchers believe this is linked to how blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep cycle. One of the researchers, Dr Aylin Kilinc Ugurlu, of Ankara City Hospital in Turkey, said: ‘As this is a study in mice, we cannot be sure that these results will be replicated in children, but these data suggest that exposure to blue light could be considered a risk factor for early onset of puberty.

With smartphones now such an important part of our daily life (and many apps designed to be addictive), it’s no wonder people want to be aware of their use.

So how else could screens and smartphones affect children and teenagers? Here are three areas you may want to keep in mind …


Young children with too much screen time may have less restful sleep (Alamy / PA)

Young children with too much screen time may have less restful sleep (Alamy / PA)

Just as phones can affect adult sleep, the same goes for young people.

According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “smartphone overuse was correlated with shorter total sleep time in children.” (Excessive use was classified as more than one hour per day). In addition to sleep duration, sleep quality was also reduced.

“Blue light from electronic devices can affect children’s sleep, particularly when used at bedtime, as it affects melatonin production,” says Dr Maite Ferrin, consultant psychiatrist for children and adolescents at Re: Cognition Health (

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

Anxiety and concentration

A 2018 study published in Preventative Medicine Reports suggested that “more hours of screen time are associated with less well-being between the ages of two and 17” and “high screen usage. [classed as seven-plus hours a day] show less curiosity, self-control and emotional stability ”.

Among young people aged 14 to 17, those classified as high screen users were found to be more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.

Jasmine Eskenzi, founder of The Zensory (, a wellness and productivity app, says: “We know that smartphones can be harmful to children’s health and wellbeing. However, we cannot change the way digital natives use technology – these cultural advances have occurred and we just need to do our best to use these tools for positive use and to create healthy habits and behaviors.

“There are ways to use smartphones in a positive way, to enable people to learn preventative mental health strategies such as mindfulness, meditation and positive thinking,” he adds, noting that, with healthy boundaries in place, there can be many positives to being connected. through technology.

“Young people can find like-minded communities and also watch and engage with 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 wildly empowering capabilities of smartphones, we can see young people thrive and not just survive, “says Eskenzi.

Your child may become more anxious due to smartphone overuse (Alamy / PA)

Your child may become more anxious due to smartphone overuse (Alamy / PA)

“It is habits and behavior that need to change, to prevent young people from anxiously scrolling on social media and instead teach them how they can live healthier – this has to come with systemic and cultural changes to enforce it in tandem.”

What about concentration and concentration? “Prolonged use of devices also reduces attention span in children and can impact other brain functions, including our ability to remember things,” Ferrin suggests.

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


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

“Excessive use of smartphones could be harmful to the eyesight of children and people of all ages,” says Ferrin.

“Excessive stress can be placed on the eyes, which can cause fluctuating vision, eyestrain, eyestrain, headaches, as well as neck, shoulder and back pain.

“Excessive use of smartphones could potentially increase the risk of eye symptoms such as myopia [short-sightedness] and ocular surface disease, leading to dry eye syndrome and blepharitis.

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