Sleep deprivation is a growing problem in schools, with pupils struggling to concentrate in lessons due to lack of sleep, MPs have been told.
Edward Timpson, minister for children and families, highlighted the issue while being questioned by MPs who are investigating the role of education in preventing mental health problems in children and young people.
Lack of sleep has been linked to children’s use of mobile phones and tablets late into the night, MPs sitting on the joint inquiry by the Commons health and education committees were told at Wednesday’s hearing.
Timpson said: “A big issue in schools now is around sleep deprivation. Children are not getting enough sleep and that causes problems concentrating.”
Doctors have previously reported a dramatic increase in children with sleep disorders; NHS data shows hospital attendances in England for under-14s have risen from almost 3,000 in 2005-06 to more than 8,000 in 2015-16.
MPs also raised concerns about the impact of social media on children’s mental health, with reports of widespread cyberbullying, and parents’ inability to protect their children.
Former government mental health champion Natasha Devon said neither teachers nor parents could keep up with the fast-moving technology and suggested schools needed IT experts to help children use social media safely.
“There is a gap in understanding between young people and their parents and teachers and the technology is developing faster than we can measure the psychological impact.
“Last year an extensive report on the impact Facebook had on self-esteem was published but teenagers aren’t on Facebook anymore. They’ve moved on to Instagram and Snapchat.”
The MPs heard that some schools try to tackle the problem by confiscating mobile phones for the duration of the day, but Devon – who founded the Self-Esteem Team – said children and young people were able to get round safety measures adults try to impose.
– Sally Weale