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Report: Indiana Kids Get Less Sleep Due to Electronic Media

September 26, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - Kids today, in Indiana and around the country, are not getting enough sleep, according to a new report about the amount of time children spend indoors staring at screens, and how this over-stimulation affects their sleep patterns.

Report author Kevin Coyle, vice president of education and training at the National Wildlife Federation, says a generation ago, kids spent hours outdoors playing and interacting with others, but today, the average child and teen in Indiana spends seven to eight hours a day on computers and cell phones, playing video games and watching television.

"And 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."

Coyle says on average, the study found kids ages 8 to 18 are losing between 10 and 14 hours of sleep per week. He says parents can help them get more balance by making sure they're getting outdoor exercise, since the activity and natural light help promote sleep. He also suggests unplugging from computers, cell phones and TVs at least an hour before bedtime.

Emily McKhann is the co-founder of The Motherhood.com, an online community for moms. With two young daughters herself, she acknowledges it is not always easy for parents to make sure children are getting time outside, but says it's important to find a way to work it in.

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

The National Wildlife Federation has a new online guide for parents and caregivers to help with outdoor activity and minimize screen time, at beoutthere.org

The report, "Green Time for Sleep Time," is at bit.ly/playoutside

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN