screen time sleep

Children's sleep not significantly affected by screen time

November 5, 2018

Science Daily/University of Oxford

As young people spend an increasing amount of time on electronic devices, the effects of these digital activities has become a prevalent concern among parents, caregivers, and policy-makers. Research indicating that between 50 percent to 90 percent of school-age children might not be getting enough sleep has prompted calls that technology use may be to blame. However, new research has shown that screen time has very little practical effect on children's sleep.

 

Screens are now a fixture of modern childhood. And as young people spend an increasing amount of time on electronic devices, the effects of these digital activities has become a prevalent concern among parents, caregivers, and policy-makers. Research indicating that between 50% to 90% of school-age children might not be getting enough sleep has prompted calls that technology use may be to blame. However, the new research findings from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, has shown that screen time has very little practical effect on children's sleep.

 

The study was conducted using data from the United States' 2016 National Survey of Children's Health. Parents from across the country completed self-report surveys on themselves, their children and household.

 

"The findings suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest," says Professor Andrew Przybylski, author of the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. "Every hour of screen time was related to 3 to 8 fewer minutes of sleep a night."

 

In practical terms, while the correlation between screen time and sleep in children exists, it might be too small to make a significant difference to a child's sleep. For example, when you compare the average nightly sleep of a tech-abstaining teenager (at 8 hours, 51 minutes) with a teenager who devotes 8 hours a day to screens (at 8 hours, 21 minutes), the difference is overall inconsequential. Other known factors, such as early starts to the school day, have a larger effect on childhood sleep.

 

"This suggests we need to look at other variables when it comes to children and their sleep," says Przybylski. Analysis in the study indicated that variables within the family and household were significantly associated with both screen use and sleep outcomes. "Focusing on bedtime routines and regular patterns of sleep, such as consistent wake-up times, are much more effective strategies for helping young people sleep than thinking screens themselves play a significant role."

 

The aim of this study was to provide parents and practitioners with a realistic foundation for looking at screen versus the impact of other interventions on sleep. "While a relationship between screens and sleep is there, we need to look at research from the lens of what is practically significant," says Przybylski. "Because the effects of screens are so modest, it is possible that many studies with smaller sample sizes could be false positives -- results that support an effect that in reality does not exist."

 

"The next step from here is research on the precise mechanisms that link digital screens to sleep. Though technologies and tools relating to so-called 'blue light' have been implicated in sleep problems, it is not clear whether play a significant causal role," says Przybylski. "Screens are here to stay, so transparent, reproducible, and robust research is needed to figure out how tech effects us and how we best intervene to limit its negative effects."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105132939.htm

Screen time before bed linked with less sleep, higher BMIs in kids

December 7, 2017

Science Daily/Penn State

It may be tempting to let your kids stay up late playing games on their smartphones, but using digital devices before bed may contribute to sleep and nutrition problems in children, according to researchers.

 

After surveying parents about their kids' technology and sleep habits, researchers found that using technology before bed was associated with less sleep, poorer sleep quality, more fatigue in the morning and -- in the children that watched TV or used their cell phones before bed -- higher body mass indexes (BMI).

 

Caitlyn Fuller, medical student, said the results -- published in the journal Global Pediatric Health -- may suggest a vicious cycle of technology use, poor sleep and rising BMIs.

 

"We saw technology before bed being associated with less sleep and higher BMIs," Fuller said. "We also saw this technology use being associated with more fatigue in the morning, which circling back, is another risk factor for higher BMIs. So we're seeing a loop pattern forming."

 

Previous research has found associations between more technology use and less sleep, more inattention, and higher BMIs in adolescents. But even though research shows that 40 percent of children have cell phones by fifth grade, the researchers said not as much was known about the effects of technology on a younger population.

 

Fuller said that because sleep is so critical to a child's development, she was interested in learning more about the connection between screen time right before bed and how well those children slept, as well as how it affected other aspects of their health.

 

The researchers asked the parents of 234 children between the ages of 8 and 17 years about their kids' sleep and technology habits. The parents provided information about their children's' technology habits, sleep patterns, nutrition and activity. The researchers also asked the parents to further specify whether their children were using cell phones, computers, video games or television during their technology time.

 

After analyzing the data, the researchers found several adverse effects associated with using different technologies right before bed.

 

"We found an association between higher BMIs and an increase in technology use, and also that children who reported more technology use at bedtime were associated with less sleep at night," Fuller said. "These children were also more likely to be tired in the morning, which is also a risk factor for higher BMIs."

 

Children who reported watching TV or playing video games before bed got an average of 30 minutes less sleep than those who did not, while kids who used their phone or a computer before bed averaged an hour less of sleep than those who did not.

 

There was also an association between using all four types of technology before bed and increased cell phone use at night, such as waking up to text someone, with watching TV resulting in the highest odds.

 

Fuller said the results support new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about screen time for children. The AAP recommends that parents create boundaries around technology use, such as requiring their kids to put away their devices during meal times and keeping phones out of bedrooms at night.

 

Dr. Marsha Novick, associate professor of pediatrics and family and community medicine, said that while more research is needed to determine whether multiple devices at bedtime results in worse sleep than just one device, the study can help pediatricians talk to parents about the use of technology.

 

"Although there are many benefits to using technology, pediatricians may want to counsel parents about limiting technology for their kids, particularly at bedtime, to promote healthy childhood development and mental health," Novick said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171207182512.htm

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