Wide Awake: Screen Time Affects TN Children, Study Finds

Experts recommend reducing access to screens to improve the sleep patterns and health of children. (Wicker Man/Flickr)

There’s new research about the importance of minimizing screen time for children during the evening hours.
If children are falling asleep watching TV or with a cell phone tucked under the covers, they’re probably going to bed later and getting much less sleep than children without access to electronic devices.
Monique LeBourgeois is the lead author of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics that says children are uniquely vulnerable to sleep disruption from electronic screens.
She says because young children’s eyes are not fully developed, the light has a greater effect on their internal body clock.
“And many parents believe that media – like watching a video or playing a game – actually calms their children before bedtime,” she relates. “But in fact, it may be the exact opposite, and we may be creating the perfect storm to disruption of the both the circadian clock and sleep.”
Other studies have found that screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.
According to Better Tennessee, a project of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee, 1 in 3 children in the state watch more than three hours of television daily.
A report from the nonprofit group Common Sense Media shows mobile media device use has tripled among children ages 5 to 16 in the past six years.
LeBourgeois describes light as the brain’s primary timekeeper, and says for children and adolescents, self-illuminated devices, including smartphones and televisions, bathe their eyes in blue light that can keep sleep at bay.
“So, this immature eye allows more light to actually hit the retina that signal the internal biological clock,” she explains.
LeBourgeois encourages parents to turn off their children’s electronic devices before bed and charge them somewhere outside bedrooms.
She adds parents can set an example by keeping TVs, computers, tablets and cellphones out of their own bedrooms as well.