Children who spend four hours a day on phones, tablets or video game consoles are TWICE as likely to get ‘insufficient sleep’
- Youngsters under ten with ‘portable electronic devices’ are most at risk
- Children can sneak these into their bedrooms during ‘lights off’
- Hold them close to their faces, which disrupts ‘sleep hormone’ production
Children who spend hours playing on phones, tablets or video game consoles are more at risk of ‘insufficient sleep’, research suggests.
A study found that youngsters under ten who get four or more hours of ‘portable electronic device’ screen time a day are twice as likely to miss out on shut eye.
Portable devices are thought to be more damaging than just watching TV due to children being able to sneak them into their bedrooms during ‘lights out’.
Children who spend hours playing on phones are more at risk of ‘insufficient sleep’ (stock)
The research was carried out by San Diego State University and led by Dr Jean Twenge, from the department of psychology.
Due to electronic devices affecting sleep, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Australian Department of Health all advise children have no more than two hours of screen time a day.
But the rising popularity of phones and tablets in recent years means this recommendation is often exceeded, the authors wrote in the journal Sleep Medicine.
To test the effects of portable versus stationary electronic devices, the researchers analysed the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health – conducted by the US Census Bureau.
The survey questioned the caregivers of 43,755 healthy children aged up to 17 on how often the youngsters used computers, phones, video games or other electronic devices on an average weekday.
Answers ranged from less than one hour to more than four.
The caregivers were also asked how many hours of sleep the child gets a night.
CHILDREN WITH A TV IN THEIR BEDROOMS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE OBESE
Girls as young as four are more likely to be obese if they have a television in their bedroom, research has found.
Portuguese scientists analysed the lifestyles and habits of 120 girls aged between four and six by quizzing their parents.
They found girls with TVs in their bedrooms were three times more likely to be overweight than their peers without the luxury.
And the risk of obesity was four times higher, according to the study.
Almost two thirds of the parents questioned confessed their children had a TV in their bedroom by the age of six.
‘Insufficient sleep’ was not defined in the study, however, the NHS recommends five-year-olds get 11 hours, ten-year-olds nine hours and 45 minutes, and 15-year-olds nine hours.
Results suggested youngsters who spend more time looking at screens get less sleep.
And the effects are worse with portable electronic devices than just watching TV or using a computer.
This stayed true after the researchers adjusted for anxiety, depression, activity levels and BMI among the participants.
Perhaps surprisingly, this effect was less extreme in children aged ten or over, despite them being more likely to have phones than their younger peers.
Results suggested the under tens who spent more than four hours a day on a portable electronic device were twice as likely to get ‘insufficient sleep’ as those who did not use phones or tablets at all.
Those aged 11-to-13 who used these devices for four or more hours a day were 57 per cent more at risk of not enough shut eye compared to 44 per cent of 14-to-17 year olds.
As well as portable devices being used in bed, they are also easy for children to hide from their parents.
This means youngsters can secretly watch ‘highly-arousing’ footage, such as violent or sexual clips.
The smaller screens of portable devices also means children often hold them closer to their faces.
Phones and tablets emit a blue light that suppresses the production of the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin, which is more pronounced the closer you sit to the screen.
The researchers believe future studies should investigate the exact time of day when portable electronic device use most impacts sleep.