A Smarter Beginning 

Electronic Media in Your Child’s Bedroom

November 5, 2013 / by Susan Sirigatti


happiness-is-watching-dora-on-the-ipad_lIs there a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom? Then you need to know about the current research on how electronic media affects children’s sleep.

The poor sleep habits of children today have many parents, educators and child psychologists concerned. For example, a friend of mine recently told me that she found her 11 year old son at the computer in his room at 5 o’clock in the morning of a school day. He didn’t have to get up until 6:45. She still isn’t sure about what he was doing on the computer. She is sure that he got almost 2 hours less sleep that night.


We already know how important sleep is for children’s health, learning, memory and achievement in school. (See my previous blog entry, “Sleep Affects Learning: Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?) It’s obvious that the time spent looking at TV or using the computer replaces sleep time. It also replaces study time, physical activity, face-to-face socializing, etc. We know, too, that physical activity is important for good quality sleep. After all, biologically we weren’t meant to spend long periods of time sitting still staring at a screen. We were built to be active. Besides, electronic media, especially computer use and computer games, stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep and possibly even affecting the quality of the sleep.


Earlier this year, a study was published to answer the following question: “Do computer use, TV viewing, and the presence of the media in the bedroom predict school-aged children’s habits in a longitudinal study?” (www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-13-684.pdf). This study investigated the sleep habits of 10 and 11 year olds from 27 different schools in 2006 and again in 2008 when the students were 2 years older. It measured TV viewing and computer use by these children, their bedtimes on school days and on weekends, how long they slept, and the differences for boys and girls. The results and conclusions supported previous studies and were very interesting, especially for parents.

What this study found was that use of the computer and TV viewing, and electronic media in the bedroom result in later bedtimes and significantly less sleep both on school days and on weekends. Moreover, for boys especially, electronic media in the bedroom resulted in worse sleep habits. What it also found was that use of the computer has a stronger adverse effect than TV on bedtime and sleep duration. This is probably because computer use tends to be more active than TV viewing and most likely stimulates and arouses the brain more.


What does this mean to those of us who have children, who are concerned about them, and who want to see that they get the best of what they need? We know that today, electronic media has become more and more a part of modern life for our children. But that doesn’t mean we need to accept the possible negative effects it might have on their quality of life or on their health and development. Here again, parental supervision is key. As parents, it’s up to us to decide what’s really best for our children and where to draw the line. Based on the information gathered from this study, you might want to think closely about putting electronic media in your child’s bedroom.

Have you had any experiences concerning electronic media in your child’s bedroom? Please share with us.


(Photo credit: Wayan Vota/Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA)

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