Having trouble getting your preschooler to hit the hay? Media violence may be contributing to the problem.
Turns out that allowing your preschooler to watch violent media, whether on TV, on video, through video games, or even games on a smart phone, increases the likelihood you’ll struggle getting your child to sleep and having her stay asleep.
That’s the conclusion of a study, “Media Use and Child Sleep: The Impact of Content, Timing, and Environment”, published in the July 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
“A lot of the research had lumped all media use together,” said Michelle Garrison Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a research scientist at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Reducing media use altogether is an overwhelming goal for a lot of families,” Garrison said. “There are healthy media choices that families can be making,” She added that the goal is to shift away from violent content to content that is educational and has social value.
The study looked at more than 600 children ages three to five years old. Having any screen time before bedtime—violent or not—seemed to contribute to children’s difficulties in falling asleep, having nightmares, daytime sleepiness and delay in morning alertness. There have also been correlations between sleep problems and children’s behavior problems, poor academic performance and obesity.
According to Dr. Garrison, the majority of violent content that “kids were consuming was from children’s programming. Often it was a cartoon for children older than they are, when you have a four-year-old watching with an older sibling or on their own.”
Nor does it help to have a television set in a child’s bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms averaged an additional 15 minutes of evening use.
Dr. Garrison acknowledged that changing behavior isn’t easy, since it’s different from what many families are used to. “It takes more creativity,” Garrison said.
So turn off that TV, at least an hour before bedtime. Read a book with your child, offer a quiet, soothing space for sleep, and help your child calm down for an easier, more restful night’s sleep.