Getting your kid to bed at night is seriously one of the most challenging things you’ll ever have to do. Most kids are just so full of energy that they’ll tire you out before they’re halfway through their store of energy. An easy thing to do to placate your child into getting into bed is giving in and allowing some iPad screen time. However, it’s really not a great idea, just like you thought.
Researchers at the Arizona State University conducted a study with 547 kids between the ages of 7 to 9. Their parents tracked how much screen times the kids were allowed along with their sleep patterns. The researchers also surveyed parents about their kids’ temperament and abilities to self-regulate behavior. They also had the kids wear wristwatches called actigraphs that track movement and ambient light. This helped research keep track of how long kids were sleeping.
The study found that kids who did not engage in screen time before bed slept for 23 more minutes every week and also went to sleep about 34 minutes earlier than their iPad-toting counterparts. Although that might not seem like so much more time, quality of sleep is vastly important in children’s development.
The CDC’s 2018 National Youth Risk Survey outlines that good quality sleep can impact a child’s life in many ways, including affecting grades and also weight gain. Students with an “A” average slept for 30 or more minutes per night (an average of 6.71 hours) than those with a “D” or “F” average (averaging 6.16 hours). Of course, getting to sleep on time, sleeping enough, and waking up rejuvenated helps contribute to improved performance in school.
A 2018 Pennsylvania State University study showed that children with irregular bedtimes had a higher risk of having increased body weight. Those with consistent and age-appropriate bed times when they were 9 years old had a healthier BMI at age 15 than those without a consistent bed time.
One of the most interesting components of the Arizona State study was that kids whose sleep was impacted the most by screen time also scored low in the personality trait labelled as “effortful control.” Senior author of the paper, associate professor Leah Doane said: “Kids who score low on measures of effortful control are the ones who struggle to wait to unwrap a present or are easily distracted.”
As hard as it is, it’s really important not to give in and hand over an iPad to a child who is about to go to bed. Just like it’s important for adults to go to sleep without any distractions, it’s arguable even more important for kids. The one comforting thought is that eventually they’ll outgrow this phase, and soon you’ll have to worry about waking them up as teenagers. But that’s a conversation for another day.