It’s often a divisive issue and a constant bone of contention. Should children and teenagers be allowed to have a television in their bedrooms? For us, the answer is obvious, this an unequivocal ‘no’. In this, however, it seems as though we’re in the minority.
In a revealing study, quoted in the Telegraph recently, Ofcom found 70% of teenagers have televisions in their rooms. This is something that concerns us a great deal.
The associated issues can be divided into three distinct groupings: social, supervision and sleep. Each problem can have major implications for a young person’s development. Something as simple as allowing a television into the bedroom can be more damaging than most parents imagine.
On the social front, young people whose bedrooms are equipped with the latest technology (and we’re also talking about tablets, computers, games consoles and mobiles here) tend to spend the bulk of their time in them, often alone. Children and teenagers can isolate themselves, which is never good for mental health, and miss out on precious family time. This can lead to low mood and the breakdown of communication and relationships in the home environment. The implications can be huge. But that’s not all.
Bedroom viewing is impossible to police and, without direct supervision, young people are often exposed to inappropriate programmes. Shows such as Hollyoaks might appear innocuous enough but topics are often tackled that, with no-one on hand to offer support or provide an explanation, can prove problematic. You might think that a teenager is mature enough to understand most things and cope emotionally, but it isn’t always the case.
Our third issue – sleep – is perhaps the most important. Research has proved that teenagers and children who have televisions (and other electronic devices) in their bedrooms don’t sleep as well as those who don’t. Given that good sleep is imperative for basic daytime functioning, this is something that cannot be overlooked.
Young people who have televisions in their rooms go to sleep later at night: fact. Young people who fall asleep in front of the television lose the ability to fall asleep naturally: fact. Young people whose sleep is disrupted as a direct result of having a television in their bedrooms are at a greater risk of suffering from anxiety, stress and all kinds of other issues that can have a negative impact on their development and school performance: fact.
Concentration can suffer, so too the memory, whilst basic problem solving becomes much more challenging. This all because, as parents, we’ve allowed televisions et al into the bedroom, in the process transforming it from a quiet, restful retreat into an entertainment zone that doesn’t encourage the calm time that our children need.
Our advice on this is quite clear: don’t let televisions into the bedrooms (once they’re in, it can be VERY difficult to get them out), spend more time together as a family, make children’s rooms about relaxing and set them up for better sleep. There is a place for television and technology, but the conditions should always be appropriate and other activities – ones that aid concentration and its associated benefits, such as reading, playing chess or learning a musical instrument – should be encouraged.
It’s just common sense, but it can make all the difference.