A new report in the academic journal Pediatrics confirms what we already suspected– kids shouldn’t be on electronic devices before bed.
The researchers, a team from the University of Colorado, analysed all past literature on electronics, kids, teens, and sleep. They concluded screen use in the hour before bedtime was, in almost all studies, associated with worse sleep. Why? The researchers presented three possible explanations.
- Time displacement
- Psychological stimulation
- Effects of “screen light” on the physiological process of falling asleep
Time displacement simply means the kids stayed up later than planned because they were watching tv. Since all of us adults have watched one too many episodes of our favorite show (especially since the advent of Netflix and the auto-start feature), it’s no surprise that kids, with their underdeveloped impulse control, frequently ditch their bedtimes in favor of another round of Minecraft or another episode of “Stranger Things.” We would probably all be better rested and get to bed on time more often if we turned off our electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
Then there’s the fact that our favorite games, shows, and apps are designed to be exciting. After all, that’s why we enjoy them! But such psychologically stimulating content works against our kids at bedtime. While you and I may be able to drift off just fine after the latest Marvel movie, kids are very easily overstimulated and need extra time to unwind after such vicarious thrills and cliffhangers.
Even the type of light emitted by electronic devices keeps us from a good night’s sleep. As the report states, “The spectral composition of light produced by many electronic devices is enriched for short wavelengths (∼450 nm) in the blue light range.9 Short-wavelength light is generally more effective than longer-wavelength light for suppressing melatonin levels, phase shifting the circadian clock, acutely increasing alertness, and altering subsequent sleep.” In other words, light from electronic devices hinders our brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical which causes us to feel sleepy. The report goes on to explain that children’s eyes aren’t fully developed, so they are more susceptible to the effects of iPad light. Add that to the normal tendency of overtired children to fight sleep, and you have the perfect recipe for a poor night’s sleep.
You can read the full report in Pediatrics by clicking here.
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