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Media use negatively affects children's sleep habits

17 percent of those polled had two TVs in their children's room


ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Children who spend bedtime watching television, playing video games or using computers get less sleep, say University of Michigan researchers.

A new study from the University of Michigan Department of Communication Studies show that increased media use is linked to a shorter night sleep and a longer daytime nap for preschoolers.

Previous research indicates that children age 2-5 should only use screen media for about one hour a day to ensure healthy growth and development. The current study shows the daily screen time for preschoolers to be nearly double this recommendation.

Inadequate sleep among children has been linked to obesity, depression and anxiety, as well as weak school performance and poor social behaviors, such as acting out or displaying aggression toward peers.
Researchers assessed TV, DVD/VCR, video games and computer usage among 278 preschoolers, with an average age of 4 years old. Parents and guardians completed an online or paper questionnaire about their child's bedtime behavior. They reported the hours of nightly sleep, daily naps and quantity and times of media usage.

Most of the children's media use occurred on weekdays after preschool, in the evening before bedtime and over weekend days.
About 19 percent of the children had televisions in their bedroom and 17 percent had two TVs in their room, more than 23 percent had a DVD/VCR and 9 percent had one video gaming system.
Moorman, a doctoral candidate in communication studies and the study's lead author, said kids caught using media when they should be sleeping, slept less at night, took longer daytime naps and went to bed later on weekdays compared wih the never-caught group — all factors that can negatively impact a child's healthy development.

Not surprisingly, children with televisions in their bedrooms were 127 percent more likely to engage in sneaky media use compared with those without a TV in their room.

Kristen Harrison, professor of communication studies and study co-author, said that heaviest media users in the study likely have parents who are also heavy media users. This suggests that families should address these sleep concerns as a unit, not just for the youngest children in the household.

"Although these children may be meeting their required hours of sleep during any given 24-hour period, a longer daytime nap suggests a disruption to a child's process of sleep consolidation," Moorman said.

The longer naps by the heavy and sneaky media users could be one seemingly innocent yet impactful health-harming behavior in preschool age children, the researchers said.