New study finds too much screen time for kids can cause worrying health issues

Is your child on their phone or tablet too much? A new study is suggesting that too much screen time can cause children’s hormone levels to change, and even risk early onset puberty.

Doctor Aylin Kilinc Ugurlu and her colleagues in Turkey delivered their findings this week at the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology in Rome.

The aim of the study was to test the effect of blue light exposure on children’s health, and whether or not reduced levels of the melatonin hormone can cause a child to develop puberty earlier than usual.

The experiment was carried out on eighteen female rats. The rats were divided into three groups and were exposed to three different durations of light - a normal daylight cycle, six hours of blue light, or 12 hours of blue light.

Signs of puberty appeared much quicker in the rats that were exposed to blue light, and significantly so in the rats that were subjected to it for 12 hours. 

They included signs such as reduced melatonin levels and physical changes in their ovarian tissue. Worryingly, they also showcased signs of cell damage and ovary inflammation.

Dr Kilinc Ugurlu has confirmed that she and her team will continue this study further to see if they can uncover any other significant findings. The scientists will be investigating the cell damage and ovary inflammation to see if it causes any long-term impact on fertility levels and reproductive health.

As many devices nowadays now have a feature to minimise the strength of blue light on their screens, the team will also research whether or not this is a powerful enough measure to prevent any health issues amongst children.

For now, parents are being advised to take note of how much time their children are spending on their devices, and to limit screen time if need be. “We need a healthy offline/online balance to be there,” insisted Alex Cooney, the CEO of Cyber Safe Kids. “We need to take a break from devices.”

Perhaps it's time to get off the screens, and get outdoors!