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Is TV part of your child’s bedtime routine?

Filed in
  • Teens
  • parenting
  • children

By Thomas Heffron  |  Jan 15, 2013
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A new study examined the “screen time” before bedtime of children and teens. This is the amount of time spent on the computer, watching TV or playing video games.

The study from New Zealand and Australia was published online ahead of print in the journal Pediatrics. More than 2,000 children and teens completed a time use survey. Their ages ranged from 5 to 18 years.

Researchers analyzed activities in the 90 minutes before sleep. Overall, screen time occupied about 30 minutes of the pre-sleep period. Watching TV was the most commonly reported activity.

Kids who fell asleep later had more screen time before sleeping. In contrast, children and teens who fell asleep earlier spent more time away from the screen before going to sleep.

Previous research shows that technology can be a bedtime problem for teens. One study reported that teens tend to use multiple forms of technology late into the night. These “wired” teens got less sleep at night and were more likely to fall asleep during school.

Research also links TV viewing to sleep problems in younger children too. A study in 1999 involved 495 children in kindergarten through the fourth grade. Increased TV viewing at bedtime was linked to bedtime resistance, delayed sleep onset, sleep anxiety and short sleep duration.

Studies also show that sleep problems frequently occur when children have a TV in their bedroom. A 2007 study involved children who were 5.5 years of age. Having a TV in the bedroom was associated with sleep problems. Forty-one percent of the children had a TV in their bedroom.

You might think that this problem is unique to children in the U.S. But it is common in other countries as well.

One study involved children between 6 and 12 years of age in Japan. Watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet had a negative impact on sleep. Children were more active before bedtime if they had a TV or video game system in their bedroom.

About 18 percent of children in a Chinese study had a TV or computer in the bedroom. These children had later bedtimes and wake times, and shorter sleep durations. They also were more likely to display bedtime resistance and sleep anxiety.

In a study from Belgium, teens with a TV set in their bedroom went to bed later and spent less time in bed. Teens who watched more TV also woke up later and were more tired.

It’s clear that parents should keep the TV out of their child’s bedroom. While you’re at it, take computers, tablets and cell phones out of the bedroom too. Parents also should limit children’s exposure to media violence.

Another way to help your children and teens is by setting a “technology curfew” earlier in the evening. This will give them a chance to wind down before bed.

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