NEWS Mental Health News TV Before Bedtime Is Bad For Your Child's Brain By John Loeppky John Loeppky LinkedIn Twitter John Loeppky is a freelance journalist based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, who has written about disability and health for outlets of all kinds. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 14, 2022 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Karen Cilli Fact checked by Karen Cilli Karen Cilli is a fact-checker for Verywell Mind. She has an extensive background in research, with 33 years of experience as a reference librarian and educator. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Mayte Torres / Getty Images Key Takeaways Recent academic research adds to evidence that allowing young children to watch television before bed has negative impacts on their brains.Experts say reducing or eliminating television before sleep at a young age sets families up for success. If you’ve been a parent or guardian to anyone under the age of ten in the last decade, chances are you’ve handed a fussy child a piece of technology as part of their bedtime routine to make life just a little bit easier. A study published earlier this year in Infant Behavior and Development adds to existing research that suggests letting your child watch television at bedtime may cause problems for them later on in life. However, we don’t live in a puritanical technology-free world, so that begs the question: how can parents and guardians strike a balance? Pediatricians React The research, conducted by researchers at NYU and the University of Pittsburgh, looked at a sample size of 403 families to identify links between negative outcomes and television use in toddler night routines. In their words, they found that “the results underscore the universally harmful effects of TV use at bedtime and lend support for structuring nighttime routines for toddlers to promote better sleep and behavioral outcomes. That’s a message echoed by practicing physicians like Dr. Derek McClellan, MD, pediatric medical director at Central Ohio Primary Care. He emphasizes that the influence of technology on children and their nighttime routines is anything but new. “Pediatricians for years, this is even going back before smartphones and iPads and all that, we've always been against having television in your room partly because it really messes with those sleep biomechanics and how kids get into sleep.” Derek McClellan, MD Pediatricians for years, this is even going back before smartphones and iPads and all that, we've always been against having television in your room partly because it really messes with those sleep biomechanics and how kids get into sleep. — Derek McClellan, MD McClellan says that the more portable technology has become—long gone are the days of CRTs and bunny ears—the more challenging keeping television out of young children's bedtime routines has become. “We've largely been against it forever and now that most of these are handheld it really makes it more difficult, I think, on parents and caregivers.” Screen Time Recommendations For Your Child By Age Families with Less Support More Likely to Use Television One key point the study makes is that television usage in children’s nighttime routines appears more common among families who access public assistance programs and first-time parents. All of the families studied were from diverse racial backgrounds, were part of an early childhood support program, and were Medicaid-eligible. Dr. Sarah Adams, MD, a pediatrician and medical director at Akron Children’s Hospital, says that it’s important to set reasonable expectations and not be too difficult on yourself if you can’t keep technology out of your child’s nighttime routine. It’s something she says she tries to model in her practice. “I try to get to know the family and know their story, so that I can approach this sensitively and then that's when we start to work together. And I ask, ‘What do you think you could do instead of using media, or what are those steps that you think you could take?’ Because me just telling them what to do is not really helpful.” Adams says introducing activities that engage the brain but not screens, like reading, are a way to get kids “off their seat and on their feet” in the one to two hours before they go to bed. McClellan says that, amongst the families he interacts with on a day-to-day basis, the main concern is preventing future behavioral issues like the ones described in research studies. For him, setting clear expectations and boundaries around technology early in a child’s life means preventing more conflict down the line. Sarah Adams, MD ...Baby steps, just try one thing at a time to get to the point where you’ve set the kids up for success in a positive way around media. — Sarah Adams, MD “We try to say, ‘Hey, you're setting yourself up for more issues later. You might have solved a problem in your eyes for that three-year-old or for that four-year-old, but now you're setting the expectation that this is okay.’” The Symptoms and Risks of Television Addiction Striking a Balance With Your Kids and TV Both McClellan and Adams are cognizant of the fact that there is an inherent middle ground here. After all, eliminating technology completely is an unrealistic goal. McClellan says that what’s key is setting boundaries and intentions. “I think, in those kind of constraints, where it's like, ‘Alright, we're going to watch one video, it's going to be a half an hour, we're going to do that as part of our bedtime routine,’ and it's the parent and the child doing it together. I don't know that any of us would necessarily say that's a bad thing,” says McClellan. Adams says a concern of caregivers she speaks to is how to adapt a bedtime routine once technology’s inclusion has become an expectation. She says building that capacity is about setting reachable goals. “The best thing that I tell parents is just, ‘Pick one thing to work on.’ So if limiting the time that they spend is their first objective, or maybe it could just be getting the technology out of the room… you know, baby steps, just try one thing at a time to get to the point where you’ve set the kids up for success in a positive way around media.” What This Means For You While there is growing evidence that including television in a young child's bedtime routine is harmful in the long run, one way to mitigate these effects is to establish achievable routines that reduce TV usage. For Optimal Brain Function, Kids Need Better Sleep 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Miller EB, Canfield CF, Wippick H, Shaw DS, Morris PA, Mendelsohn AL. Predictors of television at bedtime and associations with toddler sleep and behavior in a Medicaid-eligible, racial/ethnic minority sample. Infant Behav Dev. 2022;67:101707. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2022.101707 By John Loeppky John Loeppky is a freelance journalist based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, who has written about disability and health for outlets of all kinds. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.