“American children get too little sleep, with major adverse implications for their cognitive ability, judgment, behavior and physical health,” according to new study from the Kaiser foundation. There are many factors, but one of them is media. Children and adults often watch television or DVDs before going to sleep. But media use — computers, television, DVDs, cell phones, iPods, etc. — all of which have sharply increased, can disrupt sleep.
The report notes that children, especially very young children, have much more access to technology than even in the recent past. Some believe that media use has directly displaced sleep. Children stay up later and get up earlier to use media. Many teens and even younger children take their cell phones to bed and stay up late sending text messages. The amount of television time correlates to irregular bedtimes and naptimes. Media use also displaces physical activity which is important for sleep quality. The exciting and dramatic content of programs, even those intended for children, can be disturbing and lead to increase in sleeplessness and nightmares. Surprisingly, passive viewing (having the television on in the background while they do other things) can correlate even more highly to sleep disturbance than active viewing (watching without other distractions).
This result may have arisen because the passive viewing to which the children were exposed was more stressful than the content that they were watching actively, which was presumably children’s fare. This result clearly warrants further research, particularly given the
amount of adult viewing that happens in the presence of children.
Kaiser recommends more research on this important topic.