Scientists in the United Kingdom studied the bedtime habits of more than 6,000 children ages 11 and 12. The kids answered questions about their use of screens one hour before going to bed, including time spent on mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers, computers, portable media players, video game consoles, and watching television. The report was particularly focused on whether the children used the devices in a lighted or dark room.
Kids in the study also reported on their sleep quality: how long it took them to fall asleep each night, whether they woke up during the night, or woke up too early in the morning. Additionally, they answered a questionnaire about their overall mental and social well-being.
According to findings published in the journal Environment International, night-time screen use was associated with:
- Trouble falling asleep and waking up too early
- Restless sleep
- Higher risk of waking up late (among kids who used mobile phones or watched TV before bed)
- A lower quality of life
Kids who used screens in the dark suffered the most sleep deprivation, the authors found. They suggested this may be because the blue light from the screens is especially disruptive to the body's sleep hormones when viewed in the dark. It might also be because kids who view screens in the dark are staying up later (probably without their parents' knowing) than those who look at screens before the lights go out, the authors wrote.
The study relied on kids accurately reporting their screen use, so there is room for error. More research is needed to confirm the findings. However, other studies have also associated before-bedtime screen use with poor sleep quality. Other research has tied excessive screen time to other problems in kids such as lack of exercise, behavioral problems, and anxiety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting your child's use of screens and turning off devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. These screen-time tips and information on how much screen time is okay for kids can help you figure out the right balance for your child.
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