How much time a child or teenager spends on electronics is always a big debate between parents and their children. Many teenagers act like they cannot live without them. Also teenagers tend to argue there are no negative side effects to computer screens. Many parent feel differently and have research to back up their point of view. However, most teenagers dismiss their parents opinions and they feel their parents are overreacting.
One of the major concerns parents have is what do electronics do to a child’s sleep. Many parents feel if a child or teen uses electronics up until the time they go to bed, the child will have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. By the way, parents are correct based on all the research in this area. Parents also are concerned about teenagers watching YouTube or texting on their phones until 3 or 4am in the morning and then being to tired the next day for school or anything.
During the quarantine this probably has become a bigger issue in some households because kids don’t need to get up for school. I have written previous articles recommending that electronics be limited and definitely not before bedtime. I did some more research in this area and found the following information by Lori Lite maybe helpful in determining how much screen time is appropriate before bed. She runs a program and website regarding helping kids to relax and control anger.
First let’s start by looking at how electronics impact children and teenagers brains. Electronics, and especially screens, can be stimulating. While that might be a good thing during the day, it’s not at night when it’s time for kids to sleep.
Part of the stimulation from electronic screen time is from the blue wave light that comes from screens. During the day, many things stimulate our brains, and blue wave light is one of them. But at night, blue wave light exposure sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. When exposed to blue wave light, children may struggle to wind down and begin the process of falling asleep.
Besides the effects of blue wave light, screen time affects sleep if children become stimulated having conversations over the phone or text, playing games, or engaging in social media. Video games or movies might include disturbing themes or images that will affect sleep and emotional health.
How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep
Your pediatrician may have their thoughts about how screen time affects sleep Limiting screen time mostly to daytime hours is best. Blue wave light exposure during the day isn’t as problematic as nighttime exposure. And stimulation from screens during the day is normal.
As parents, it’s essential to set clear rules on screen time use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime. Encourage kids to engage in other relaxing evening activities during that time as part of a healthy bedtime routine. They can read a book, work on a puzzle while listening to relaxation music, and get ready for the next day. The other rule parents should enforce is to avoid screen use in your child’s bedroom. Their bedroom should be an environment devoted to sleep and relaxation, and when you bring screens into it they may be tempted to engage rather than sleep).
Another factor to consider is how screen time has replaced play time in some households. Kids who are using screens for many hours a day may be sedentary while they do so. Activity and exercise are a part of a healthy lifestyle, as they reinforce a circadian rhythm that’s in sync with the environment and allow kids to be tired when it’s time for bed.
Screens have become a part of everyday life and are an important tool for kids and adults. It’s imperative for parents to show their children the proper way to use screens without negatively affecting their lives. Take the lead to demonstrate responsible use so children can enjoy screen time as well as a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.