Sleep is an important part of children’s and teen’s healthy development. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens needs 8-10 hours of sleep; school aged children need 9-11 hours; preschool need 10-13 hours; toddlers need 11-14 hours; infants need 12-15 hours; and newborns need 14-17. When kids and teens don’t get enough sleep, their health can be affected in many ways, including:
- More difficulties learning, listening, concentrating, and solving problems
- Feeling stressed and worried about life (depression)
- Feeling irritable with friends and family
- Unhealthy eating and weight gain
- Health problems like acne and viral illnesses
Many children and teens do not get the recommended amount of sleep they need each night, and may also suffer from poor quality sleep. Research shows that media use and exposure can affect children’s quantity and quality of sleep which in turn can affect their physical and mental health.
How can media affect children’s sleep?
As the brain isn’t fully developed until young adulthood, children’s media use can have a big impact on how their brains process information, outwardly affecting how they react to and remember events in any given situation. Current research offers the following examples of how children’s brain development is shaped by their media use and exposure:
- Using screens before bed can lead to later bedtimes and less time sleeping.
- The “blue light” from screens can throw off children and teens’ circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock that helps us stay awake during the day and sleep at night.
- Notifications such as text and status alerts on a smartphone, whether audio or vibrations, can disrupt sleep and wake children and teens up during the night. This can lead to being overly tired throughout the day.
- Watching violent or scary media before bed can also cause children and teens to have less sleep and poorer quality of sleep. lead to sleep disruptions.
What YOU Can Do
Although media and technology are integrated into many children and teen’s daily lives, limiting their use before bed and helping promote healthy bedtime routines, can help them get the quality and quantity of sleep needed for their healthy mental and physical development. Here are several suggestions to help you guide your child’s media use:
Make sure children and teen’s turn off “blue-light” emitting device at least an hour before bedtime. Help your kids get into a relaxing before bed routine, such as reading or taking a bath. Avoid activities such as using the computer, watching TV, or texting. Additionally, help your kids avoid exposure to any frightening media, whether TV, video games, or a movie in the evening hours. If they have to use a phone before bed, turn on Night Shift Mode on their iOS device (iPhone or iPad), which changes the screen to a warmer color that’s easier on theeyes. Similar apps on Android exist (Night Shift, Twilight)
Many teens experience FOMO or “fear of missing out” on a text or other alert from their friends. Address these concerns by reassuring them that the news will be the same in the morning and not something they should worry about at night. Additionally, recommend that they let their friends know that they go “off-line” at night.
Keep TVs, computers and video game systems out of children’s bedrooms, and make sure that all other internet connected devices such as tablets and smartphones are left in a common room or your bedroom to charge overnight. By keeping these electronics in a common area, parents can monitor their use much more easily and help limit children’s exposure to blue light and sleep disruptions.
Parents should model for their children the behaviors they would like to encourage. Leave your phone in the designated charging area at night too, and do your best to follow a healthy, media-free bedtime routine.