Do these Kids Ever Sleep?
Dr. Kathie F. Nunley
There's been a
lot of buzz lately over the research and data now out on the amount
of time our kids spend in front of screens and consuming media. When
Larry Rosen released his research showing that young kids today spend
over 20 hours a day consuming media, I've heard many people exclaim,
Oh my….Don't these kids sleep!? .
It may not be
quite as awful as it first appears - though most of us in educational
and developmental psychology do have concerns. First though, it's
important to distinguish between "screen time" and time spent "consuming
media". Media covers a host of entertainment devices, not all of which
involve eyes open and looking at a screen. Listening to music or a
television or video program running in the background while sleeping
is still consuming media. And that's how that number gets so high.
too many of our kids are indeed listening to music, Internet programs,
video programs, etc while sleeping. This is not a healthy way to sleep
- especially for young brains! You've probably heard that most of
the "hard wiring" of the learning process occurs during sleep, and
We are exposed
to a tremendous amount of information and stimuli during the day -
the vast majority of which is not important and does not need to be
stored for the long term (for example, the color or type of car that
stopped on your left at the traffic light this afternoon). Sleep is
when our brain sifts through all that input from the day and determines
which needs to be stored, or hardwired in, and which can be discarded.
So you remember the important parts of a lecture you heard today,
but not so much about the conversation you overhead on your way into
Sleep is the time
for the brain's chemical maintenance department to really get to work.
Chemicals called neurotrophins help hardwire the important learning
and make connections from one region of your brain to another. The
chemical calpain is involved in ridding the brain of extra neurons
that you don't use and are getting in the way of construction. Most
of this happens as we sleep. In order for it to occur thoroughly and
appropriately, we need dark and quiet while sleeping. Noise, be it
music, or video background also are processed by the brain and interrupt
the maintenance going on.
So if your child
tells you that they simply cannot fall asleep without some type of
background music, just make sure there's a timer set on it so after
30 minutes or so, it shuts off.
But all this "media
consumption" comes with some positive perks too (at least for daytime
consumption!). All these multiple forms of media use may be leading
to some superior cognitive processing too, especially among the youngest
kids - known as digital natives. These young, digital natives, or
Igeneration as they are also sometimes known, grew up with media.
They never had to "learn" it like their parents did; it was there
from day one. Their ability to handle distractions in their environment
while engaged in work and learning and their ability to handle multiple
tasks at once is incredible. The American Academy of Pediatrics now
suggests that we may see drastic physical differences in brain regions.
They conclude that as a result of so much media at a young age, these
children have enhanced or improved working memory and other special
Schools and teachers
are rushing to keep up with these fast-paced, media-ready brains.
They depend more and more on technology to be embedded in the learning
experience to allow these brains to pace themselves and learn in diverse
ways. Laptops, tablets and smartphones as information delivery systems
in the classroom are now more the rule than the exception.
So while we see
the youngest generation consuming media with abandonment, we acknowledge
the need for adults to help limit it to appropriate place and time
and embrace and encourage it for the cognitive benefits it is bringing
to our youngest.
American Academyof Pediatrics, news release, Oct 10, 2014.
(2006). A Student's Brain: The parent / teacher manual. Amherst, NH:Brains.org
(2011). "Poke Me: how Social Networks can both Help and Harm out Kids"
presented at the American Psychological Association National Convention,
About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author
of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's
Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High
School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered
Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and
educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly
environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation,
Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
her: Kathie (at) brains.org
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