If Your Preschooler is Keeping You up at Night, TV May Well Be to Blame

Research published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that the media (television, video-game and computer) viewing habits of 3 to 5 year old preschoolers can significantly affect their sleep. So, if your preschooler is keeping you up at all hours, read ahead and think about whether a simple change in their viewing habits might give you a better night’s rest.

One of the main issues is that parents often don’t realize just how scary young children can find things they are exposed to. Characters and events that an older child or adult might not bat an eye at may be quite upsetting to young children. The problem is, children in the, say, 3-5 year old range, cannot really tell the difference between fantasy and reality. In fact, trying to explain to them that what they are seeing “isn’t real” often times doesn’t help. If your child is upset by something they have seen in the media, the best thing to do is simply hold, cuddle and reassure them.

In the study, parents of three to five year olds filled out a baseline questionnaire and a detailed media dairy for their children as well as a widely used sleep habits questionnaire. ON average the children had 73 minutes per day of media exposure, with 14 minutes after 7PM. Eighteen percent of parents reported at lest one sleep problem. If the child had a TV in their room, it is no great surprise that they watched more TV as well as were more likely to have a sleep problem. The more the evening media viewing, the more likely there was a sleep problem.

The other thing the study showed is that daytime viewing of violent content, not only on TV, but in siblings’ video or computer games also increased the likelihood of sleep problems. This was not seen with daytime nonviolent media exposure.

The bottom line - watch what your kids are watching, limit it (it’s recommended that children have no more than 1-2 hours per day of media exposure at any age), and watch it with them to answer questions, reassure them and be a part of their lives.

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