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Report: WV Kids Sleep Less Due to Electronic Media

September 15, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Youngsters today are not getting enough sleep, according to a new report that looks at the amount of time children spend indoors on electronic devices - and how this over-stimulation affects their sleep.

A generation ago, says report author Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training at the National Wildlife Federation, children spent hours outdoors playing and interacting with others - especially in places such as West Virginia, which is rich in wilderness. Today, the average West Virginia child or teenager spends 7 to 8 hours per day on a computer or cell phone, playing video games or watching television.

"This has a number of implications for the kids; their health, their overall fitness levels. There are a number of reasons why we think that this new 'indoor child' phenomenon in American society has really affected the ability of children to get a good night's sleep."

Emily McKhann is co-founder of TheMotherhood.com, an online community for moms. With two young daughters, she acknowledges it is not always easy for parents to make time to get their children outdoors...but says it's important to find a way to work it in.

"One of the things we're trying to do is actually give them some time to run around outside before they head off to school, just to start the day with some fresh air."

On average, Coyle says, children from ages 8 to 18 lose between 10 and 14 hours of sleep per week because they are over-stimulated by electronic use. Parents can help restore some balance, he says, by making sure children get outdoor exercise because natural light helps promote sleep. He also suggests that they "unplug" from computers, cell phones and TVs at least an hour before bedtime.

For more tips to get children to spend more time outside and reduce their "screen time," a new online guide is available for parents and caregivers, at beoutthere.org.

The report, "Green Time for Sleep Time," is at nwf.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV