In today’s tech-savvy society, it’s hard to remember life before smartphones, tablets and social media. The Pew Research Center estimates that 68% of Americans have smartphones and 45% own tablets. With electronics all around us, it’s no surprise our kids are affected.
The National Sleep Foundation says when it comes to children, electronics and sleep, there’s an increasing prevalence of electronics in kid’s bedrooms. New Jammies agrees this can present some challenges.
“That creates a culture of evening engagement and light exposure that negatively impacts sleep time, sleep quality and daytime alertness,” says the NSF. “Many children are not fulfilling basic sleep requirements and adequate sleep is essential for growth, learning, mood, creativity and weight control. Understanding the influence of light and evening engagement on sleep is the first step in helping parents address the dilemma of electronics in the bedroom.”
There are several results of mixing electrics and bedtime for kids of all ages. The Foundation says children using electronic media as a sleep aid to relax at night have been shown to have later weekday bedtimes. They also experience fewer hours of sleep per week and report more daytime sleepiness.
“Adolescents with a bedroom television have later bedtimes, more difficulty initiating sleep and shorter total sleep times,” says the NSF. “Texting and emailing after lights outs, even once per week, dramatically increases self-reported daytime sleepiness among teens.”
Increased academic demands, busy social and extracurricular schedules, and the lure of entertainment keep our children electronically engaged at night, according to the Foundation.
“Not all electronic usage is recreational as the burden of homework is great for many of our children and their work is often completed on the computer, a significant light source late in the evening,” the NSF says.
Liraz Margalit, Ph.D., who analyzes online consumer behavior, recently penned an article for “Psychology Today” discussing kid’s exposure to electronic media. She suggested to tread carefully on the topic because technology isn’t always a bad thing.
“Educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills — not to mention the break these gadgets provide harried parents,” she says. “But tread carefully: A number of troubling studies connect delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media.”
Dr. Margalit says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates American children spend a whopping seven hours a day in front of electronic media.
“Other statistics reveal that kids as young as two regularly play iPad games and have playroom toys that involve touch screens,” the article says.
The key is to wait and introduce kids to electronics until at least the age of two. And to power off regularly to establish clear boundaries between the virtual world and the real one.
“Despite the danger that overexposure to smartphones can pose for young brains, there are a lot of benefits to letting little ones use technology. Once a child is over the age of two, feel free to allow limited screen time — think an hour, max, of playing with tablets and iPhones each day— to help develop coordination, hone quick reactions, and even sharpen language skills,” Dr. Margalit says. “As with all the other toys and tools available to your developing child, smartphone use should stay in moderation, and never stand in for human interaction or real-world face time.”
The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) is an international alliance of more than 100 policy leaders, educators, law enforcement members, technology experts, public health experts and advocates established in 2005. The nonprofit says for both kids and adults, the time for a technology curfew is always right, and are essential for a healthy life and family. Establishing a nightly digital wind-down ritual, benefit us in many ways, says iKeepSafe, and these tips can help you and your family:
• “Unplug” two hours before bed. This gives your brain a chance to unwind and get ready for sleep.
• Create a schedule and stick to it. Confusion and arguments will be kept to a minimum once your kids understand that the technology curfew is a nightly event that’s here to stay.
• Make family fun time a part of the nightly ritual. Idea: Assign a night to each family member and make him or her in charge of choosing the activity.
• Don’t forget to add some invaluable me-time to the mix. This could include, reading, writing, pampering or meditating.
• Store all digital devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) in an area of the house other than the bedrooms.
• Use an alarm clock rather than your smartphone or tablet as a wakeup device.
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