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For NV Kids, More Shut-Eye Means Less Screen Time

September 22, 2011

LAS VEGAS - Youngsters in Nevada and around the nation are not getting enough sleep, according to a new report that examines the amount of time children spend indoors on electronic devices - and how this over-stimulation affects their sleep patterns.

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. Today, the average Nevada child or teen spends 7 to 8 hours per day between computers and cell phones, 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."

The report indicates that, on average, kids ages 8 through 18 are losing from 10 to 14 hours of sleep per week because they are over-stimulated by electronic use. Coyle says parents can help children obtain more balance by making sure they get regular exercise and spend at least an hour a day outdoors, because natural light helps promote sleep.

He also suggests trying to get kids to "unplug" from computers, cell phones and TVs at least an hour before bedtime - an idea he knows could meet with some resistance.

"About half of all the kids in America now have a TV in their bedroom. And the other (rule) is, particularly for older children, to park their cell phones somewhere other than in the bedroom, because these kids will often text each other in the middle of the night."

For more tips to prompt 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.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV