(Credit: Getty Images)
Increased media use is linked to preschoolers getting less sleep at night and more sleep during the day, report researchers.
“…children with televisions in their bedrooms were 127 percent more likely to engage in sneaky media use…”
Previous research indicates that children ages two to five should only use screen media for about one hour a day to ensure their healthy growth and development. This guideline, however, is rarely followed. In the current study, daily screen time for preschoolers was more than double this recommendation.
This isn’t good, because media use can chip away at a restful night’s sleep for young children, threatening their ability to get the 10-13 hours of sleep they need per night, say study authors Jessica Moorman and Kristen Harrison of the communication studies department at the University of Michigan.
Inadequate sleep among children has been linked to obesity, depression, and anxiety, as well as weak school performance and poor social behaviors, such as acting out or displaying aggression toward peers.
The researchers assessed TV, DVD/VCR, video games, and computer/internet usage among 278 preschoolers, with average age of four years old. Parents and guardians completed an online or paper questionnaire about their child’s bedtime behavior. They reported the hours of nightly sleep, daily naps, and quantity and times of media usage.
In addition to providing demographic information, parents responded to questions about sneaky media use—a new measure representing the frequency children are caught using media when they should be sleeping.
On average, respondents reported their children got close to 11 hours of sleep per day. Most of the children’s media use occurred on weekdays after preschool, in the evening before bedtime, and over weekend days.
About 19 percent of the children had televisions in their bedroom and 17 percent had two TVs in their room. More than 23 percent had a DVD/VCR and 9 percent had one video gaming system.
Moorman, a PhD candidate in communication studies and the study’s lead author, says kids caught using media when they should be sleeping slept less at night, took longer daytime naps, and went to bed later on weekdays compared to the never-caught group—all factors that can negatively impact a child’s healthy development.