Now this post certainly won’t make me popular with many parents and it certainly won’t be popular with kids, but it’s nonetheless important.
In this episode I discuss why it’s important for children’s bedrooms to be “tech-free” spaces. In an ideal world this means no gadgets in bedrooms at all. No TV, iPads, gaming consoles. Absolutely nothing.
Before I explain why it’s important to keep bedrooms as “tech-free” spaces, please understand that I’m not here to make you feel guilty. My goal is to simply arm you with evidence-based information so you can make informed decisions about how you’ll use technology with young children, in ways that are healthy and helpful.
And quite simply, having digital devices in bedrooms is not healthy nor is it helpful for little ones. We have overwhelming and consistent research evidence to confirm that technology in bedrooms robs children of their sleep (and adults too, but that’s another post).
We need to keep digital devices out of kids’ bedrooms.
But it’s not always easy to enforce especially as there are more and more small screens to contend with (that can easily fit into pyjama pockets, or be smuggled into bedrooms).
Why We Shouldn’t Have Screens in Kids’ Bedrooms
- Screens adversely impact on sleep habits and hygiene. The artificial blue light emitted from mobile devices tinkers with the brain chemicals that promote sleep. Blue light reduces the body’s production of melatonin, which regulates our internal body clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle. In one study* there was a 22% reduction in melatonin levels when tablets were used two hours before sleep time. Hence, devices before sleep can cause sleep delays, which can accumulate into sleep deficits for children over time. This can, in turn, hamper their capacity to learn and affect their behavior and concentration.
- Shorter sleep cycles. Studies** have linked sleeping near small screens, like smartphones or iPads and having TVs in bedrooms, with shorter durations of sleep among fourth- and seventh-graders. Studies have also found kids who slept near small screens were more likely to report insufficient rest.
- Disrupts sleep. If children wake up in the night (which is normal), they may look for notifications or alerts on their devices if they’re in their room. This can stimulate the brain and their sleep cycles are disrupted. The audible notifications on devices can also disrupt children’s sleep.
- TVs in bedrooms increases likelihood of childhood obesity. Numerous studies have shown that TVs in bedrooms increase the chances of childhood obesity. It is believed that TVs in bedrooms promote more sedentary behaviour and also prevent children from getting adequate sleep. Insufficient sleep has also been as a causal factor contributing to childhood obesity.
- It makes it difficult to monitor their online activities. Parents are often shocked to learn that their children are waking up in the middle of the night and jumping online, if devices are in their bedrooms and the Internet is switched on.
Strategies to Keep Screens Out of Bedrooms
- Have a “landing zone” where digital devices go for charging. Have a specific place in your home where devices are placed to be re-charged each night.
- Have a specific bedtime for digital devices. Just like children have bedtimes, also specify an exact time when devices need to be switched off.
- Start other night-time rituals with your child to promote sleep. Rather than reverting to screens as part of their nightly routine, offer other alternatives for children. For example, reading books, playing a game, doing a guided meditation, or singing are great alternatives to screens.
I’d love to know in the comments below, do you keep bedrooms as “tech-free zones”?
*Figueiro, M., & Overington, D. (2015). Self-luminous devices and melatonin suppression in adolescents. Lighting Research and Technology, 1477153515584979.
**Arora T, Hussain S, Hubert Lam KB, Lily Yao G, Neil Thomas G, Taheri S. (2013). Exploring the complex pathways among specific types of technology, self-reported sleep duration and body mass index in UK adolescents. Int J Obes (Lond). 37(9):1254–1260.
Cain N, Gradisar M. (2010). Electronic media use and sleep in school-aged children and adolescents: a review. Sleep Med. 11(8):735–742.
Falbe, J., Davison, K. K., Franckle, R. L., Ganter, C., Gortmaker, S. L., Smith, L., & Taveras, E. M. (2015). Sleep duration, restfulness, and screens in the sleep environment. Pediatrics, 135(2), e367-e375.