Australian children are among the youngest users of the internet in the world, starting as young as eight years old.
Whether they’re using mobile phones, iPads or the TV, most children and teenagers will use their devices daily to chat to their friends or to access entertainment and education.
But when children use these devices in the evening, they can struggle to sleep, leaving them wired and tired.
They may also have difficulties with staying asleep if these devices disturb them throughout the night.
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Why worry about missing a little sleep?
Research reveals that 20-40% of school-aged children are affected by inadequate sleep.
Inadequate sleep can be caused by not getting enough sleep each night, or by having sleep that is broken and disturbed.
While the amount of sleep needed varies between individuals, as a guide, primary school children should get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep each night, dropping to 8 to 10 hours for adolescents.
Poor sleep can have a negative impact on a child’s health and wellbeing, mood and behavior, as well as their concentration and memory. This can lead to academic, social, emotional and behavioral problems at school and home.
If you think that your child is not getting enough sleep, look for signs such as moodiness, behavior issues, poorer health and problems with memory and attention at home or school.
Children who are experiencing problems at school as a result of poor sleep may become anxious. This may then make it more difficult for them to get enough sleep each night.
Using digital devices before bed can affect sleep in a number of ways:
- The screen brightness – the light emitted from digital screens can fool the brain into not realising it is nighttime.
- Electromagnetic radiation from the devices disrupts the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.
- The excitement of the content (be it video games, television shows, or messaging friends via social media) can induce a “fight or flight” response that inhibits the onset of sleep or prevents a deep restful sleep.
Over time, these may reset the child’s body clock so that it moves the sleep onset time to later in the evening. That leads to a sleep deficit and increases the likelihood of problems.