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Nightmares, sleep talking may be reason to ban TV from youngster's bedroom
The American Academy of Pediatrics says children 2 and younger should have zero screen time and those older should have no more than a couple of hours a day. - photo by Lois M Collins
A study from Chile found that children who watch TV late at night are more prone to sleep disturbances. And preschoolers who have a TV in their bedroom may not get high-quality sleep, it said, leading to various issues like waking tired, sleep talking and nightmares.

Just over half of the children in the study had a TV in their bedrooms. The researchers suggest that having other screens in the bedroom, such as smartphones and tablets, may pose similar problems.

According to an article by Quartz, "The study, published in Sleep Medicine, involved learning about the habits of 100 children in Santiago, Chile, and studying their sleep quality based on a standardized survey called the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children (SDSC). Those who scored higher on survey that is, slept worse werent watching that much more TV. They were just watching it later in the day."

The study authors highlighted several findings: TV in the bedroom reduces a child's sleep quality, it said. So does more hours of TV. It said TV impacted "sleep terrors, nightmares and sleep talking" and that those who watched TV in the evening had "significantly more sleep problems."

An editorial on ScienceDirect that also ran in Sleep Medicine recounted that "a recent survey among parents of preschool children said 40 percent of them use television as a 'babysitter' for their children three months of age and 90 percent for children younger than two years, as they believe in the positive educational effects of TV programs."

It said preschoolers have about two hours a day screen time, which is twice the time spent with music and three times as much as reading or being read to.

If it seems that such small children are unlikely to use cellphones and other devices, it's not true. An article in the Los Angeles Times recently heralded a study presented to a national gathering of pediatricians showing that more than one-third of infants regularly play with smartphones or tablets.

"Only 2 percent of the parents surveyed said they had waited until their kids were 4 to introduce them to the wonders of the touchscreen," the article said. "In case you were figuring that these kids must have been born in the heart of Silicon Valley, think again. The researchers said they conducted their survey of 370 families in a pediatric clinic that caters to 'an urban, low income, minority community' in Philadelphia. In fact, 13 percent of the parents who took the survey had not finished high school. Still, 77 percent of them said they had a smartphone, 83 percent had a tablet and 59 percent had Internet access.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 not be exposed to screens at all, but rather should learn about their world through direct interaction and being read to. It also recommends that all children have "screen-free zones."

While lamenting that the average child spends seven hours a day with screens, from TVs to smartphones to tablets and more, the academy cites potential woes: "Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors."
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