But there are gadgets that parents can use to help their child fall asleep and keep him or her awake
Mobiles and TVs have done what parent protests can’t: keep kids up. According to a new study, British children’s sleep is being disrupted by working and playing a variety of digital devices. But that’s not all. The detrimental impact of screen time on children has also been highlighted by another study by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. It says that sleep deprivation is the biggest preventable cause of poor mental health in young people.
The use of screens is keeping kids awake, while a lack of sleep can make them even more stressed and anxious. Exhaustion has led to an average of 12.7 hours of sleep loss daily in children aged five to 14. The average 15-year-old girl sleeps for eight hours fewer than the national average.
In the year 2012-13, researchers conducted a survey among parents of 100 children aged nine to 12, asking how much they spent on digital devices, televisions and other traditional media. Eighty-four percent of parents reported their children were spending more time online and watching TV than ever before.
The study found that children were spending more time in front of screens in general than ever before. Almost a third of children aged eight to 11 spent more than three hours watching screens each day. Other daily activities, such as homework, found a decline of 33 minutes compared with 2010-11.
Half of the teenagers surveyed said they regularly spent more than six hours a day watching TV. Overall, three in 10 of these watch TV every day. The survey’s authors say lack of sleep is associated with stress, anxiety and depression.
In the same research, researchers asked how much young people enjoyed sleep and the percentage of respondents who agreed that “it would be nice to go to bed at a regular time, and do a decent amount of sleep each night, so I can stay awake longer until I wake up, get my sleep in.” Of the 3,043 11-year-olds surveyed, more than half said they enjoyed sleeping. But only 5% said it would be nice to get the required sleep.
If a child is caught lying awake in bed for more than 15 minutes in between one bedtime and another, his or her mother or father should become “uncomfortable”, according to the study. Of the 81% of parents who reported their children were frequently lying in bed, 33% would stop using the child’s electronic devices after this point.
Some 80% of parents said they would encourage their children to exercise as part of a sleep routine. Some 77% of parents with children who were likely to lie in bed lying against a pillow were also concerned by this method. The breakdown of respondents was equally as varied as the method to which they accepted their child was lying in bed: 58% would make it a routine to exercise.
Children in the study who exercise are also more likely to get a good night’s sleep. Eight out of 10 said it would make them feel better after exercising. Six in 10 said they would feel better after eating a balanced diet.
A note of caution is mentioned. The survey, which involved online responses to questionnaires, had a valid response rate of 6% and a margin of error of 3.1%.