Much of what’s on TV at night just doesn’t make viewers feel good. And if you’re already worried or feeling under pressure, a heavy dose of suspense can send you over the edge. But these shows can be very hard to turn off because their formats are calculated to have you watch until the next commercial, and you feel like you can’t shut them off before the end. And if teens have a TV in their room, they may be even less likely to turn the thing off—and you’ll be less likely to know what they’re watching and less likely to ask them to turn it off. While I know many teens think of TV watching as a way to relax, I believe it’s counterproductive and adds to their sleep issues.


In a study noted in’s online MediaWise column, 65 percent of teens reported having a television in their bedrooms. And according to a study conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family, kids who have a TV in their room watch five and a half hours more TV each week than kids who don’t. Not only has this extensive exposure to television been linked to poor school performance, it contributes to reducing kids’ desire to become involved in nonelectronic activities, such as reading, outings, and family time.

Computers, too, can be very stimulating and add to teens’ sleep problems. Yes, kids need them for homework and projects, but if they browse the Internet or spend time on disturbing Web sites or playing violent computer games close to lights out—or after lights out—it will be a big deterrent to winding down enough to sleep. At my home we keep the computers in the family room so that it’s less likely that my kids will browse inappropriate sites or e-mail or IM friends in the middle of the night. It also helps to keep some of the homework materials off their beds and out of their rooms and makes it more likely that, when they go to their bedrooms, sleep will actually take place.

Then, of course, in addition to the MP3 players and all the other portable music options, there are the ubiquitous cell phones. I certainly use mine every day and I imagine you use yours, but I don’t

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