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How Caffeine and Screen Time Affects Your Child

How Caffeine and Screen Time Affects Your Child

As many school districts move their students to online learning the pandemic continues to rage in the US. There has been much concern about the increased use of technology among young children. While it is common for young children to be familiar with iPads and smart phones, many caretakers worry their children will be spending too many hours in front of a screen every day.


While there are definite benefits to the kinds of technology that children have available to them today – from more educational programs to full libraries of books and even virtual tours through aquariums and museums – many of us did not grow up with this kind of screen time. Now, while too much screen time can lead to headaches, anxiety, and arguments among siblings, did you know it can also lead to less sleep and more caffeine consumption in young children?


Now, I vividly remember enjoying my first latte at the age of 16, but I did not regularly start drinking coffee until I was a freshman in college. However, a recent study of American children between the ages of 6-10 by Calamaro et al. (2012) found that 30% of the 652 children evaluated consumed at least one caffeinated beverage a day. A majority of these beverages fell into the following categories: Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, coffee, or iced tea. Interestingly, the percentage of these children consuming each beverage was not identified in the paper, although we know that all of these beverages contain different amounts of caffeine – and could be affecting children differently.


Interestingly, among all of the children evaluated, about half did not have any technology items in their bedrooms (e.g. computers, televisions, telephones) – while 36% of them had one of those items in their bedroom. On average, the 11% of children that had all three of those items in their rooms actually slept 45 minutes less than children without those items in their room. When it came to caffeine, the 30% of the children who consume at least one caffeinated item a day slept an average of 15 minutes less per day.


Though these differences might not seem significant to us as adults, sufficient sleep is vital for children. Not only is it crucial for their development and growth, but it is important for young children to begin developing healthy sleeping patterns early to carry them into adulthood. So, how do you manage caffeine consumption, sleep, and technology with your young children?

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