The study also showed how important it is to understand the negative impact of excessive screen time on health, especially among school-age children.
Behavioral problems (e.g., getting easily distracted, displaying frequent aggressiveness with no provocation), educational problems (poor academic testing), obesity (too much time in sedentary activity) and violence (imitating the brutality they see on TV to solve problems) are just a few of the negative effects of too much screen time identified by research.
Presented at the 61st Annual European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology Meeting in The Hague, a Turkish research team from the Ankara Bilkent City Hospital and Gazi University found that exposure to blue light and the duration of exposure led to early puberty in male rats.
For the study, researchers gathered 18 male rats aged 21 days old. The rodents were split into three groups of six, with one group exposed to normal light while the other two groups were exposed to either six or 12 hours of blue light each day.
The researchers found that the longer the rats were exposed to blue light, the earlier their puberty started.
Blue light exposure suppressed spermatogenesis (sperm cell production) and caused marked vasodilation or widening of blood vessels in the interstitial area of the testicles. It also disrupted the integrity of the basement membrane in that area. These findings intensified with increasing exposure time.
"For the first time, we found a direct relationship between blue light exposure and early puberty in male rats," said lead researcher Dr. Aylin Kilinc Ugurlu from Ankara Bikent City Hospital.
"Our findings align with our previous work on female rats, which also showed similar effects, thereby providing a more comprehensive view of how blue light may influence puberty in both male and female rats."
In that previous study, the researchers split the female rodents into three groups of six: One group was exposed to normal light while the other two groups were exposed to either six or 12 hours of blue light each day.
The researchers found signs consistent with early onset puberty among female rats in the groups exposed to blue light. These included physical changes within the rat's ovarian tissue. Elevated levels of estradiol – an estrogen steroid hormone and the major female sex hormone – and luteinizing hormones that trigger important processes in reproduction were also noted.
"I want to emphasize that this is a rat study and direct results cannot be interpreted for humans. However, we provide an experimental foundation to further investigate the health consequences of ever-increasing screen time in modern society," Ugurlu said. (Related: Digital media adversely affects children and adolescents twice as much as adults because their brain and eyes are still developing, according to a review of several studies.)
The researchers also found lower levels of melatonin – the hormone that plays a role in sleep – in both the male and female rats exposed to blue light.
The team noted that the Wuhan coronavirus disease (COVID-19) school closures, stay-at-home directives and lockdowns may have increased the rate of precocious puberty globally as millions of children spent long hours each day staring at TV screens and other digital media.
Early puberty has been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety throughout life, as well as breast and uterine cancer.
The researchers will next focus on assessing the impact of blue light exposure before puberty in adult rats.
"We aim to expose both male and female rats to blue light before puberty and understand its long-term effects on reproductive organ damage and fertility," Ugurlu added.
Ultimately, this research could lead to preventative measures and contribute to the ongoing discourse on how modern lifestyles affect physiological development and long-term health.
The 3-6-9-12 rule. Dr. Serge Tisseon, a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, founded the 3-6-9-12 association and the rule of the same name, which aims to protect children from the dangers of too much screen time and to teach them to guide and protect themselves.
The rule entails that:
A child who respects these limits will be able to avoid some of the dangers associated with digital screens. (Related: Parents and school officials of small Irish town unite to BAN SMARTPHONES for children as old as 13.)
In addition, the following actions can also limit the day-to-day dangers and prevent eye strain:
The 20-20-20 rule. Teach your child to take 20-second breaks from looking at a digital screen and look at something 20 feet away. This effective tactic will help reduce eye strain. It also encourages blinking, which lubricates your eyes.
Ensure that children keep a safe distance from screens. It is recommended that children stay at least three meters (9.84 feet) away from the television screen and 60 cm (nearly two feet) away from a computer or tablet.
Use blue light filters and/or change device settings. You can change the color tone of phones or tablet screens toward warmer wavelengths of the light spectrum. Many modern electronic devices include options for "night mode" or "dark mode" that change the screen background to black. These modes can help reduce blue light exposure.
Adjust lighting and screen brightness. While you're watching TV with your kid, keep the TV softly lit. Lower the brightness of the screen of your children's devices until white becomes grey.
Set a technology curfew. Establish a nightly schedule and let your kids know that they are not allowed to use their phones or other electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime. If they're too hyped for bed, plan calming activities and lead by example.
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Watch this video that discusses blue light, modern technology and the Amish way of living.
This video is from The Prisoner channel on Brighteon.com.