Parents: Science says it’s time to get digital devices out of your kid’s room at night

Photo: Brendan Hoffman /Getty Images.

My home has become as battleground over the past year. As Mr 13 becomes Mr 14 and Miss 11 becomes Miss 12, their use of social media and their portable devices has gone through the roof.

And it’s my fault.

I bought them iPhones earlier this year because I wanted to make sure they could easily contact us when they finished training and other things before and after school.

I didn’t stop to think I would lose the kids into a black hole of Snapchat, You Tube, and Instagram.

Yet the real issue is sleep.

Mr 13 gets up at 5am to get to the pool for training, Miss 11 sleeps in till 6am, but she’s there most mornings too. So the battle raging in our house – thankfully, my wife is winning – is to get the devices out of their bedrooms once they get ready for sleep.

New research suggests that the battle is worth it because access to devices while the kids are supposed to be in bed or asleep cuts into both the quantity and quality of their night’s rest.

Ben Carter, of Kings College London, and his co-authors from across the UK and United States, assessed 20 studies involving 125,198 children with an average age of 14.5 and found there is a “consistent association between bedtime media device use and inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness’.

But kids don’t even have to use the devices – they just have to be buzzing away or lighting up during the night.

“Children who had access to but didn’t use media devices at night also were more likely to have inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness” the research found.

That’s important, the researchers say, because of the crucial role sleep plays to “to the development of physically and psychologically healthy children.”

Disturbed sleep can lead to adverse outcome for kids including “poor diet, sedentary behavior, obesity, reduced immunity, stunted growth, mental health issues (eg, depression and suicidal tendencies), and substance abuse”.

I’m not going to lose this battle after reading that. And the researchers say parents shouldn’t either.

But it’s more than just taking the devices out of the rooms at night Carter and his co-authors say.

“We recommend that interventions to minimize device access and use need to be developed and evaluated. Interventions should include a multidisciplinary approach from teachers and health care professionals to empower parents to minimize the deleterious influences on child health,” the report concludes.

We’ll start with taking them out of the kids’ rooms every night.

You can read the full research paper here.