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The Need for Critical Evaluation

Unbalanced and poorly reported health information can impact lives.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an investigative documentary (later withdrawn) discussing the side-effects of statins. They reported an"increased risk of 50 percent" for diabetes, which would more accurately be described as a change from two people out of 200 with diabetes to three people out of 200. Researchers estimate an extra 28,000 Australians stopped taking these cholesterol-lowering meds after the documentary aired. This could have translated to 2900 preventable, and potentially fatal cardiovascular incidents.

PositiveTip: Consult with your health care professional before abandoning any prescription medication.

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TV Before Bedtime Impacts Kids' Sleep

Kids who watch violent media any time of day have more sleep problems.

Preschoolers who watch television, play with computers or play video games after 7:00 PM report more sleep issues such as repeated awakenings, nightmares and daytime tiredness. Watching violent content at any time was also associated with sleep problems. Having a TV in the child's room increased viewing of violent content. Nonviolent daytime viewing did not increase sleep problems.

PositiveTip: Carefully monitor and control the media your children view and play, and find positive substitutes for evening media use.

Limit Kids Media for Their Good

The report from the Kaiser Family Foundation on media and sleep concludes their review with this statement:

William Dement, a professor at Stanford University and a leading sleep researcher has written, “…my most significant finding is that ignorance is the worst sleep disorder of all.” This review of the literature on sleep and media use among children indicates that while there are some things we do know about media and sleep, there is much more about which we are still ignorant.

It is extremely important to understand that all of the different types of media to which our kids are exposed can cause both measurable effects and other effects that we don’t yet understand.

Early Childhood Sleep Deprivation May Lead to ADHD

Child sleep while mom is on the computer.The report from the Kaiser Family Foundation goes on to discuss other issues related to the media and sleep:

“Sleep problems in middle childhood tend to be persistent. This fact raises the question as to what, if any, are the long-term effects of media use on children’s sleep. It may be, for example, that there is a critical window early on in which good sleep habits are established.

One prominent sleep researcher has argued that sleep problems in early childhood may have adverse developmental impacts that are not fully observable until years later. This researcher speculates that early sleep deprivation in children is part of the cause of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The Media and Sleep

Scared mature womanThe report from the Kaiser Family Foundation goes on to discuss possible nightmares and new forms of media.

Media use and nightmares: Research has shown that many children may experience nightmares resulting from something they viewed on TV or in an electronic game, and most children have young children who view to this kind of media do not find it relaxing.

On the other hand, there are also new television programs that have been specifically created to calm children down and help them fall asleep, and are promoted to parents as such.

Are the new forms of media use influencing sleep in different ways?

The Media and Sleep

Sleeping girl with a hand in her snacks.Research describing concern about media use and sleep in children dates at least to the 1970’s.

A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation says:

“a 1981 study of middle-class children in Indiana found an association between TV viewing and both shorter daytime naps and shorter nighttime sleep among toddlers. Such results have been replicated subsequently and seem to have grown stronger with time.

 

The Media and Sleep

Girl sleeping with headphonesA report from the Kaiser Family Foundation tells us:

There is good reason to believe that different media formats (e.g. television viewing, Internet use, cell phone use, electronic game-playing) have different kinds of effects on sleep.

Different types of content within these media formats presumably also have different effects—indeed it is possible that certain media content in certain formats can function as a healthy part of bedtime routines.