Friday, March 13, 2009

The Young & the Restless: Children, TV & Bedtime

The AP reports that there is some controversy over a bedtime TV program for children. “The Good Night Show” is a three-hour block of programs for children between the ages of 2 and 5. It airs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the PBS Kids Sprout network.

A network executive says the show is a helpful tool in the “real world” where most homes have a TV on at night. It’s a better viewing option for children than other programs that are on at the same time.

But critics say that parents should be interacting with their children instead of plopping them in front of the TV at night. They also say that TV viewing can make it harder for children to fall asleep. It stimulates them when they should be winding down.

Research shows that there is good reason to be concerned. Studies indicate that watching TV can have a negative effect on children’s sleep.

A study in 1999 involved 495 children in kindergarten through the fourth grade. Increased TV viewing at bedtime was linked to bedtime resistance, delayed sleep onset, sleep anxiety and short sleep duration.

Research also shows that sleep problems frequently occur when children have a TV in their bedroom.

A 2007 study involved children who were 5.5 years of age. Having a TV in the bedroom was associated with sleep problems. Forty-one percent of the children had a TV in their bedroom.

You might think that this problem is unique to children in the U.S. But it is common in other countries as well.

One study involved children between 6 and 12 years of age in Japan. Watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet had a negative impact on sleep. Children were more active before bedtime if they had a TV or video game system in their bedroom.

About 18 percent of children in
a Chinese study had a TV or computer in the bedroom. These children had later bedtimes and wake times, and shorter sleep durations. They also were more likely to display bedtime resistance and sleep anxiety.

a study from Belgium, teens with a TV set in their bedroom went to bed later and spent less time in bed. Teens who watched more TV also woke up later and were more tired.

It’s clear that parents should keep the TV out of their child’s bedroom. While you’re at it, take the computer out of the bedroom too.

You also can help your child wind down for bedtime by turning off the TV and the computer earlier in the evening.

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