When The Huffington Post and YouGov asked parents how often they let their kids sleep next to their cell phones, 30 percent said they allowed it sometimes or always. Another 30 percent, however, banned cell phones from bedsides entirely.
Of course, setting screen time limits is easier said than done. But since research suggests nighttime can be a particularly detrimental time for kids to use devices, placing parameters around tech use near bedtime is a good place to start.
Here are five research-backed reasons you might not want to let your kids sleep near their cell phones:
1. Kids may take longer to fall asleep if they use their phones right before bed.
A 2015 study of nearly 10,000 teens, ages 16-19, found that those who used their phones an hour before bedtime had a harder time falling asleep. They were 13-52 percent more likely to take more than 60 minutes to fall asleep. Doctors say that it should normally only take people 15 to 20 minutes.
2. They'll be more likely to lose out on hours of sleep time.
Adolescents who used their phones an hour before bedtime were between 35 and 53 percent more likely to miss two or more hours of sleep a night compared to peers who didn't. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommend that school-aged children get 10 hours of sleep a night. The risks associated with losing multiple hours of sleep according to the National Sleep Foundation include: behavior problems, impaired learning and school performance, emotional issues and obesity.
3. Sleeping near cell phones is considered worse for kids than sleeping in front of the TV. (Yes, really.)
A study that looked at 2,048 fourth- and seventh-graders found that those who slept near their small devices reported 20.6 fewer minutes of sleep, which was also associated with insufficient rest or sleep. Children who slept in front of the TV lost 18 minutes of sleep -- a close call, but it seems cell phones are the bigger culprits.
4. Plus, keeping phones in the bedroom encourages kids to stay awake and text into the night.
Keeping cell phones within reach -- on a nightstand or a dresser next to the bed -- can keep kids awake for up to four hours, according to a 2010 study. The students surveyed, ages 8-22, sent an average of 34 texts and emails a night after going to bed. The researchers found that about half of the kids who texted at night also suffered from ADHD, anxiety, depression, mood and cognitive problems and trouble learning.
5. Even if they're using their devices to read -- and not to socialize -- the glow of a tablet or phone can disrupt sleep.
A 2014 study found that those who read on screens before bed released less melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, compared to those who read from a printed book. These people weren't able to reach rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep for as long throughout the night and took longer to fall asleep. Kindles, eReaders, iPads and smartphone reading apps may be a convenient way to get kids reading, but they can come at a cost.
So what can you do?
Kids may not be thrilled to be separated from their devices, but there are things you can do if you're worried about their quality of sleep. Some tips for reducing screen time during the precious nighttime hours:
- Put phones away two hours before bedtime.
- Instead of relying on cell phones to wake them up in the morning, put an alarm clock on their nightstand.
- Stock up on print books that will get your kid excited about reading at night.
- Charge cell phones outside of bedrooms so they're not within reach when notifications come through.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted July 17-19 among U.S. adults, including 217 interviews of parents with children under 18, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll's methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.
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