Amazing, how cooperative your young one has become at bedtime. Funny...it all seemed to start after the holidays. After the Best Present EVER! (Not the cozy organic mattress, unfortunately—that doesn’t glow in the dark.) But a smartphone.
Here’s why you might want to round up those phones at bedtime. A study in the journal Pediatrics has found that the small, glowing screens are having a significant effect on children’s sleep—even more than TVs in their rooms do. Bottom line: children stay awake longer messing with their phones, and when they do drop off with the phone nearby, they’re sleeping about 21 minutes less per night. The sounds of message alerts keep coming, too, making the sleep they do get more restless.
(With bedroom TVs, kids lose 18 minutes’ sleep per night on average. But many lose more. Every hour of TV or DVD viewing takes away four minutes and every hour of video gaming subtracts five.)
Twenty minutes lost to smartphones might seem like no big deal, but kids are already getting a lot less sleep than they need these days. Chronic short sleep affects their ability to think clearly and retain the information that’s funneled into their heads every day at school. It also sets them up for mood swings, crankiness, even depression.
You won’t have to look far (online, ironically) to find adult rants or reflections about how much we’re losing to electronic screens and cell phones. The gains are evident—instant access to an astonishing amount of information. The losses? They include subtler things, such as focused communication in the present with nearby human beings, civil greetings on the sidewalk, and a stronger connection with the natural world.
Sleep matters more
Nobody thinks children today can stay computer-innocent and still succeed in a plugged-in culture. Kids who don’t learn the basics of computers, including smartphones, can miss out on opportunities that matter. But losing sleep to the enticing devices? Sleep is essential to well being—the latest text is not.
It’s time for parents to cut through the buzz. Remove phones at bedtime, and rethink whether electronic games and TVs should be located in kids’ rooms at all. You’ll be helping your children get the vital sleep they need.