It seems society can no longer function without technology. People use devices for work, school, entertainment, and socialization. For parents, the use pattern is concerning because devices seem attached to everything their children do, begging the question: How is technology affecting childhood development and health?
One of the most significant issues arising over the last several years is the debate between screen time and sleep. The medical community is growing concerned about device use and adequate or healthy sleep cycles.
As a parent, you must ask yourself how much screen time is too much for your child. It is crucial to find a healthy balance, so your little one gets enough rest. Sleep is vital to healthy biological functions, but you cannot ignore the significance of technological literacy.
How Does Screen Time Affect an Individual
It is natural to want to please your child. All parents want to see their little ones happy and healthy. Unfortunately, sometimes healthy choices will make your child upset, even momentarily.
Children do not understand boundaries or the consequences of their actions, especially at young ages. When a child wants to watch a YouTube video or stream a movie 20 minutes before bed, they do not realize how it might impact their rest and the following day.
Like many adults, kids like instant gratification but have not learned that immediate rewards often result in adverse effects. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, abuse of screentime can cause problems with:
- Physical activity
When children become addicted to their screens, it can lead to social isolation and future health problems, such as weight gain and sleep apnea. Because habitual behavior is hard to correct, creating boundaries and time restraints for your children early on is best.
How Much is Too Much Screen Time
Many parents need to be made aware of how much time their children spend in front of screens, often significantly underestimating the duration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children aged eight to 10 years spend an average of six hours in front of screens; children 11-14 spend nine hours; and kids 15-18 spend over seven hours. Some parents may justify the time as educational or social, but children spend the most time watching or streaming television shows, between four and five hours per day.
The averages for children and teenagers are too much. No child needs to spend nine hours per day glued to a screen. When it comes to guidance on screen time, leading organizations seem split. The World Health Organization suggests one hour or less of screen time for kids between two and five years. Under two, the organization does not recommend screens. The WHO does not offer suggestions for children over the age of five.
The AACAP differs slightly, suggesting screen time is OK for children under two as long as it is focused on educational programming. Also, while the organization agrees with a one-hour limit for children between two and five, it does suggest up to three hours on weekends. For children six or older, it recommends encouraging healthy use and activities.
How Many Hours Before Bed Should You Stop Looking at Screens
According to the Sleep Foundation, children are vulnerable to sleep problems stemming from blue light-emitting devices. Blue light can reduce melatonin production and increase sleep latency — the time it takes someone to fall asleep.
Children may not receive enough quality sleep by using devices late at night or into the evening. Without adequate sleep, little ones may feel groggy in the morning or more lethargic throughout the day, affecting many aspects of their life, including education and socialization.
Limiting screen time in the evening and turning off devices an hour or two before bed is best. Spend time before bedtime relaxing, reading stories, or talking and sharing as a family. If you or your child reads from an e-reader, dim the display as much as possible to limit blue light exposure. You can also purchase blue light-blocking glasses.
Tips for Reducing Screen Time Before Bed for Better Sleep
While reducing screen time before bed might seem challenging, especially for families that enjoy streaming shows before saying goodnight, it can offer new opportunities for connection. Eliminating screens opens the door to creating new rituals and family interactions.
To create a healthier bedtime routine without devices and screens, you can shut things down one hour before lights out and ensure the bedroom is device-free. You can also take the time to try a few healthy behaviors, such as:
- Reading and telling stories
Screen time can harm sleep habits, and limiting device usage before bed is an excellent way to correct them. Wellements advocates for child wellness, selling organic remedies for every stage of development. Knowing the importance of sleep, the brand offers products like the Dream Team Bundle to calm your child before bed.