01/08/2013 06:53 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2013

Why Are So Many Kids Falling Asleep in Front of the TV?


Nearly half of American children have television sets in their bedrooms, raising the question: How did they get there in the first place?

To answer this question, researchers from Oklahoma City interviewed 21 families to learn why their children did, or did not, have a television in their room. The researchers found that the parents of kids with a TV set in the bedroom either allowed this to happen without much forethought or did so because they felt it made this easier for the parents.

In contrast, parents whose children did not have television sets in their bedrooms stressed the negative impact watching television has on their children's sleep; in reducing their other activities such as playing and reading; and on monitoring what their kids are actually watching behind closed doors.

Having a television set in a child's bedroom is a bad idea. Watching TV in bed makes it harder for the child to settle into sleep at night because of the noise, light and content. Children who have television sets in their bedrooms tend to watch more TV, read less, exercise less and are more likely to become overweight or obese than children who do not.

A just-published study found that 46% of American children get more than two hours of screen time each day! All in all, the negatives definitely outweigh the positives on this issue. Thinking it through before the television set makes its way into your child's bedroom is a really good idea, and prevents the fights down the road if and when you try and take it back out.

Keeping your child on a regular schedule, maintaining a fixed bedtime routine without screen time in the last two hours before bed and keeping the bedroom quiet and dark will all go a long way towards helping your child get a good night's sleep, and live healthier during the day.
Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Help your child get a great night's sleep with my new book:
Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids (a Harvard Medical School Guide)