Allowing young kids to watch TV is always something up for debate. Generally, the amount of TV little kids are watching should be limited to something like an hour a day. Most parents laugh at the suggestion — if the TV is keeping them quiet, we're not turning it off. But, there is some interesting new information out there about preschoolers who watch TV around bedtime and naptime. They're not sleeping as much as kids who don't watch TV during those times. While the differences are huge numbers, those minutes add up over time.
Rebecca Spencer, a neuroscientist from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, along with developmental science grad student Abigail Helm conducted the study. The study focuses on the fact that preschoolers watching TV while going to bed at night, or for an afternoon nap aren't getting a good enough amount of TV. During research for the study, Spencer learned that 36 percent of 3 to 5-year-olds have a TV in their bedrooms. And one-third of those kids watch TV when they're going to sleep. Often, but not always, they're watching shows that are adult shows that are too stimulating or violent.
"Parents assumed that TV was helping their kids wind down. But it didn't work. Those kids weren't getting good sleep, and it wasn't helping them fall asleep better," Spencer says.
For the study, a "very diverse" group of 470 Western Massachusetts preschoolers were observed. Each child was given an actigraph, which they wore like a watch to track their sleep. They wore the actigraphs for up to 16 days. Parents and caregivers then had to answer questions about both their TV watching and sleep habits.
Though the information on the study doesn't give any numbers on sleep averages, they made some important findings. The preschoolers who watch less than an hour of TV a day get about 22 minutes more sleep nightly. Ultimately, that adds up to 2.5 hours a week more sleep than kids who watch more than an hour of TV a day. On the flip side, preschoolers who have a TV in their room nap 12 minutes longer than kids who don't. But they sleep 17 minutes less over the course of a 24 hour period, so it doesn't really help. And kids who don't have a TV in their room sleep around a half hour more than kids who do.
Sure, you may not cut down the amount of TV your kid watches over the course of the day. And that's totally up to you. But if your kiddo has a TV in their bedroom, it might be a good idea to take it out. Or at very least, stop watching TV to fall asleep.