A recent study has shown that children with a TV or video game system in their bedroom did not do as well in school, were more likely to become obese, and were at greater risk of addiction.
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Several studies have reported that the time children spend looking at a screen time is steadily increasing. Currently, children spend an average of around 60 hours a week in front of screens. Furthermore, a national survey in the US found that more than 40% of children aged 4‑6 years have a TV in their bedroom, and the majority of children aged 8 and older have a TV or video game console in their bedroom.
The study followed the children for six months to two years. The results showed that children with bedroom media spent less time reading, sleeping or participating in other activities. This in turn lead to several negative outcomes. The presence of a TV or gaming system in the bedroom was associated with an increased risk of obesity, lower school grades and an increase in the development of addition to gaming.
The results mirrored findings in previous studies, but also showed for the first time that having bedroom media significantly changes the amount of time children spend with media and the content they view. It also reduces the time children spend doing more beneficial activities, such as reading and exercise.
Furthermore, having a TV in the bedroom allowed children to watch content that parents may well have restricted if they knew what their children were viewing. Children with media access in their bedroom watched programs and played video games that were more violent and involved greater physical aggression than those who only had TV and gaming system in a family room.
Douglas Gentile, lead author and professor of psychology commented:
When most children turn on the TV alone in their bedroom, they’re probably not watching educational shows or playing educational games… Putting a TV in the bedroom gives children 24-hour access and privatizes it in a sense, so as a parent you monitor less and control their use of it less.”
This study looked specifically at TVs and video games in the bedroom, but now children also have access to digital devices. Gentile expects the effects to be the same, if not stronger, when these are studied. The heavy usage of mobile phones among children today raises concerns about their accessing questionable content or having reduced sleep due to following social media posts and responding to text messages during the night.
Although it is a challenge, Gentile strongly encourages parents to keep media out of their children’s bedroom as the long-term benefits significantly outweigh the unpleasant confrontations in the short-term. He commented “It’s a lot easier for parents to never allow a TV in the bedroom than it is to take it out. It’s a question every parent must face, but there is a simple two-letter answer. That two-letter answer is tough, but it is worth it.”
Access to media in the bedroom, makes it easier for children to access it unmonitored, so they can spend more time watching or playing, rather than engaging in other more beneficial and healthful activities. Bedroom media (both TV and video games) has been shown to increased total screen time, and lead to poorer school grades. This association is believed to arise as a consequence of spending less time reading. The same study reported that increased screen time was also associated with higher body mass index, physical aggression and symptoms of video game addiction.
Gentile highlighted “We know from decades of research on addiction that the number 1 predictor of addiction is access. You can’t be addicted to gambling, if there is no place to gamble. Access is certainly the gateway to a wide range of effects, both positive and negative.”