Many parents have guessed that their child’s smart phone or tablet could be keeping them up at night. A new study proves them right. Research from the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) finds that children with small devices—like cellphones, smartphones, and iPods –in their bedroom get less sleep than their peers who do not sleep next to their phones. The researchers suggest that setting a device curfew in the evening could help children get more sleep.
For the study, the researchers collected data about the sleep and screen-using habits of more than 2,000 children in grades four and seven. The children attended two schools in Massachusetts and formed a racially and ethnically diverse group.
Children who slept near a small screen slept less and slept worse than their peers. Fifty-four percent of children reported sleeping near a small screen. On average, children who kept a small screen near their bedside slept an average of 20.6 minutes less than children who did not sleep with a device in their room. The children with small screen devices were also more likely to complain about sleep quality.
In contrast, children with televisions in their bedrooms slept an average of 18 minutes less each weekday compared to children without a television in their bedroom. Although television impacted sleep time, it did not affect perceived quality of sleep.
The researchers suggest some reasons why small screen devices cut into the amount of quality and sleep. Small screens are typically held close to the face and, unlike television, are not a passive activity. Crucially, small screen devices also have auditory notifications that may wake children up during the night.
Jennifer Falbe, lead study author and researcher at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, explains that “[not] all screen time is ubiquitously bad, but definitely recreational screen time should be limited. Parents can set a screen or device curfew for one hour before bedtime.”
This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.
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