these Kids Ever Sleep?
Dr. Kathie F. Nunley
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
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 that's correct.
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 the lecture.
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 neurological skills.
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
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.
K. (2006). A Student's Brain: The parent / teacher manual. Amherst,
(2011). "Poke Me: how Social Networks can both Help and Harm out
Kids" presented at the American Psychological Association National
Convention, August 6.
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