Study shows significant changes in sleep timing and screen use among children during the pandemic


A new study to be presented at SLEEP 2022 shows significant changes in sleep timing and screen use among America’s children during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. They spent more time on screens, went to bed later, and slept longer.

Researchers examined longitudinal data from more than 5,000 adolescents aged 11-14 years participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. Participants reported sleep and daily screen time use across six timepoints in 2020-2021, including prior to the pandemic.

Adolescents and families have turned to online activities and social platforms more than ever before to maintain well-being, connect with friends and family, and for online schooling. However, it is concerning that there was no indication of any spontaneous decline in screen use into 2021 when there were fewer restrictions.”

Orsolya Kiss, Lead Author

Orsolya Kiss has a doctorate in cognitive psychology and is a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International

Data show that wake up times were delayed about 1.5 hours in May-August 2020, partly due to summer break, before moving to earlier times in October 2020. Bedtimes were delayed about one hour during all pandemic evaluations, even when the new school year started. Recreational screen time was dramatically higher across the first year of the pandemic, relative to pre-pandemic, with adolescents spending about 45 minutes more on social media and 20 minutes more playing video games. The increased screen time was associated with later bedtimes and wake up times across the pandemic.

Kiss said these data highlight the need to promote children’s balanced and informed use of social media platforms, video games, and other digital technology to ensure adequate opportunity to sleep and maintain other healthy behaviors.

“There is an urgent need to increase parental awareness and help families to formulate age-appropriate media use plans,” she said.

This study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Journal reference:

Kiss, O., et al. (2022) Screen time and sleep in young adolescents before and across the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sleep.

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