HAPPY TIMES: Limit screen time for kids and allow them to to get the most out of their day and night.
HAPPY TIMES: Limit screen time for kids and allow them to to get the most out of their day and night. YakobchukOlena

Too much 'screen time' could be harming our kids

EXCESSIVE screen time could be playing havoc with Southern Downs children and teens in more ways than one.

A recent study by the Sleep Health Institute found 75% young adults were having trouble getting to sleep at night, a figure that is on the rise as tablets, phones, TVs and computers become more and more a part of modern life.

Southern Downs sleep scientists Bel du Bois said everyone should switch off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.

"Think back to the time of the cave man," she said.

"Their lives were governed by the light of the sun, up at dawn and back into the cave at sundown.

"Those days are well and truly gone but our brains still start producing hormones to make us drowsy when the sun goes down."

Ms Du Bois said electronic screens omitted blue light the brain saw as daylight, therefore disrupting the onset of sleep.

"I see a lot of teenagers with insomnia problems and it's an issue that's getting worse," she said.

"Kids spend all night on their phones, wonder why they can't get to sleep and then pick up their phones again.

"It's a vicious cycle."

Ms du Bois said options such as dimming screens and the night shade option were slightly better but still not ideal.

"Spending too much time staring at a device at night cannot only disrupt a child's sleep but it's a ripple effect," she said.

"They can be hard to get motivated in the morning, and as they become more tired tired throughout the day, that manifests as hyperactivity, as children haven't yet learned to self-regulate.

"Adults will know they are tired and have a nap."

Ms du Bois said kids who weren't getting enough sleep due to too much screen time can suffer educationally, emotionally and socially.

"These kids can present as highly emotional, hyperactive, anxious, ever appearing to have learning difficulties," she said.

"But it could just be lack of sleep.

"Sleep is really important for growing kids, for their memory, growth and hormone regulation.

"Kids that are sleep deprived often lose their ability to concentrate in the classroom and it can all have that ripple effect into the playground where others may avoid them due to their irritability and crankiness.

Ms du Bois said the ideal amounts of sleep where:

  • Pre-school/toddlers need at least 12-14 hours
  • Primary school children need 10 hours sleep
  • High school children need 9 hours sleep
  • Adults require 8 hrs (which doesn't change as people get older.)

Sleep problems, including excessive screen time isn't just an issue for kids however.

A 2016 survey of Australians conducted by the Sleep Health Institute found the following:

  • It is apparent that inadequate sleep, of either duration or quality, and its daytime consequences
  • are very common in Australian adults, affecting 33-45% of adults.
  • A quarter of all adults (26%), both use the internet most or every night of the week just before bed and have frequent sleep difficulties or daytime impairments. Similarly, 16% of all working adults do work just before bed and also have frequent sleep difficulties or daytime sleep-related symptoms.
  • The prevalence of sleep difficulties and daytime consequences appears to have increased since 2010, with various sleep problems reported by more adults than in 2010.

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