How Does Screen Time Affect Kids Sleep?
How does Screen Time and the Use of Technology Affect our Children’s Sleep and Health?
Screens are ubiquitous in our lives and our kids’ lives. They are abundant and we use gadgets without realizing that some of them even have screens. In my house we have 2 TV’s, 2 tablets, an e-book reader, 2 cell phones, 2 iPods, 2 laptops and 2 monitors for our desktop. That’s a total of 13 screens for just a 3 person household!!
Our children, from the time they are born, are surrounded by screens, despite our best efforts to curb their use and interaction with them until they are at an appropriate age. As they get older, they start collecting their own set of devices – hand held video games, computer games etc. So how does screen time affect our children’s well-being? How does it affect their health and mental well-being?
1. Increased interaction time with TVs, mobile devices and computer games limit the amount of time children spend outside; being physically active. So they tend to get less exercise and so are at an increased risk for obesity and weight related health issues.
2. Screen time affects the quality of their sleep and the quantity of sleep that they get. The light that is emitted from the screen increases the production of stress hormones, decreases the production of melatonin (which helps us sleep) and stimulates their brain. At a time when they should be relaxing and winding down, their bodies are doing just the opposite.
3. Unlike TV, cell phones, video games and computers have no clear start and end times. So bedtimes become irregular which then makes it harder for their bodies to wind down and wake up at consistent times every day, which is essential during the school year.
4. Cell phones in the room is a temptation to be texting and checking Facebook status late into the night. Studies have shown that when sleep is sacrificed for screen time, there is increased risk for anxiety, depression, sleeping disorders and difficulty concentrating at school and extra-curricular activities.
So what can you do to promote better sleep and therefore better health?
1. Take TVs, computer games, tablets and all other screens outside of the bedroom. All those blinking lights and dormant screens still emit small amount of lights that interfere with our bodies’ ability to settle into a deep sleep.
2. The bedroom should be a safe and calm place that promotes sleep. It shouldn’t be a setting for watching something scary or playing violent video games, which could cause night waking and nightmares.
3. Taking these screens out, also removes the temptation to turn it on late into the night, if they are unable to sleep.
4. Ask for cell phones to be left out of the bedroom. There will be protests and grumblings (of course), but just like all other rules, once it’s consistently applied and followed, children will realize that it’s non-negotiable.
5. An hour before bedtime, stop the use of video games and computers and shut down the screens. It should be family time and wind down time and give their brains a chance to relax before bed.
6. A consistent bed time and a bedtime routine goes a long way in setting the stage for healthy and restful sleep.
Screens cannot be avoided in our lives, but setting limits for our children will promote a healthier lifestyle and teach them safe ways to embrace technology.
Visa Shanmugam helps parents develop customized sleep solutions for babies, toddlers and young children that addresses each family’s specific challenges. Using techniques and strategies from The Sleep Sense™ Program developed by world-renowned sleep expert Dana Obleman, her plans are simple, easy to follow, yet flexible. Visa is available for private consultations, group seminars and speaking engagements. Website: www.sound-sleepers.com Facebook page: www.facebook.com/soundsleepers