Family Health: What Time Do You Turn Off the TV?

Photography by Daniel Catt, via Flickr (CC)

What do you do when your little one can’t sleep? Read a book? Sing a soothing tune? Watch a PVR’d episode of The Backyardigans? Letting kids curl up on the couch to watch TV until they finally doze off may seem like a good solution, but new research published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that nighttime TV may actually contribute to sleep problems in kids age three to five, reports the CBC.

Researchers studied the habits of 617 children, collecting data from parents about their child’s sleep habits, sleeping problems and media habits (including time and content). What they found was that kids who watched TV past 7 p.m. or watched shows with violent content, were the most likely to have difficulty sleeping. For roughly one in five kids studied sleep problems were a regular occurrence, whether it was trouble falling asleep, nightmares, or sleepiness during the day. One particularly interesting piece of information to come out of the study is that kids who had a TV in their bedroom watched approximately 40 minutes more each day than kids whose rooms were TV-free.

We’ve been hearing for a while that limiting screen time for kids is an essential part of helping them develop healthy lifestyle habits. Previous studies have linked excessive screen time to emotional issues and childhood obesity. Lack of sleep will not only leave your kids feeling cranky and groggy, but it can have a serious impact on their development as well as their academic performance. If your little one has trouble getting to sleep at night, TV may not be the answer—in fact, it may be part of the problem.

What’s the latest time kids are allowed to watch TV in your home? Do your kids have a TV in their bedroom?

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