Sleep Deprivation and Electronics in Bedrooms

There is increasing evidence that televisions and electronic items located within children’s bedrooms are detrimental to the health and welfare of children and adolescents. In a recent Canadian study, researchers found that half of the 3,400 grade five students who were interviewed had a television, DVD player or video game console in their bedroom and that 60 per cent of these children used the devices after they were supposed to be asleep. The research also found a link between electronic devices in rooms and weight status of children. Children with one electronic device in their room were 1.5 times as likely to be overweight as children with no devices. The more electronic items a child had in their bedroom, the greater their likelihood of being overweight.  

In recent research conducted as part of my PhD, I surveyed 71 South Australian young people aged between 13 and 17, who were at risk of disengaging from the public school system. I found that 79% of the young people reported coming to school feeling “really tired”, and that 60% of these young people considered tiredness to represent a problem within their life.

In the age of electronics, tiredness and sleep deprivation is an issue in which parents, teachers, schools and society cannot ignore. Tiredness and sleep deprivation impact on a young person’s capacity to regulate their body systems, emotions and behaviour. They impact on cognitive function, making it difficult for young people to attend and concentrate. These effects, combined with the effects of over participation in the potentially isolating, sedentary and passive virtual world activities generally associated with electronic devices can have a devastating impact on a young person’s capacity to engage and succeed across the multiple domains of their lives. Whilst electronic devices are part of our current and future reality, this evidence highlights the need to ensure that children and young people are supported by their caregivers/families to manage their use and attain or maintain a good balance with activities that are both active and based in the real world.

For additional information on sleep deprivation, click here.

Where is Children’s Playtime Going?

The role of activity and play in children’s health and well-being is well established. Play takes many forms (e.g. fantasy play, boards games, rough and tumble and sports) and is a fundamental developmental task which contributes to growth across many domains (including children’s, social, emotional, cognitive and physical development). For example, learning to ride a bike with a parent contributes to motor skill development, relationship security, confidence and perseverance. Playing dress up with a peer contributes to the development of social skills, flexible thinking and creativity, and the establishment of likes and dislikes (a key aspect of identity formation). Physical activity itself assists in focus, concentration, co-ordination and the capacity to emotionally regulate. The more active and engaged children are and the more fun they have, the more they learn and grow.

Unfortunately, children are increasingly less physically active and more often engaged in sedentary, passive activities (e.g. TV watching, video games) than they have been in the past. Play opportunities have been reduced through lifestyle and family structure changes as well as an increased focus on educational enrichment activities. Recent research by Deakin university found that children’s activity levels decline as they move upwards through school and that opportunities for play in the school yard are increasingly constrained by limitations to physical space and a crowded curriculum (where break periods are shortened to make way for lessons).

See following article: Alarm over slide in state of play.

For additional information on the importance of play, click here.