They go to bed later, eat later and prefer playing in to playing out. 

Parenting on Female First

Parenting on Female First

According to the Sleep Council, today’s seven to 14-year-old ‘Jubilee Generation’ children go to bed almost 40 minutes later than their ‘Coronation Generation’ grandparents. They are also much more likely to snack on crisps and fizzy drinks before bedtime than their grandparents who had cups of tea or milky drinks. But, on the plus side, Jubilee children are more likely to sleep on a new bed in a room of their own.

Commenting on The Sleep Council survey comparing the lives of children around 60-years ago against those of today, TV agony aunt and grandmother/ great grandmother Denise Robertson, said: “Modern lifestyles could be having a seriously detrimental effect on children’s’ ability to get a good night’s sleep.

“Today’s youngsters get a lot less fresh air and exercise than their grandparents did and that alone will have a significant effect. But when you add in the impact of staying up late chatting online, televisions in bedrooms and all the convenience food, fizzy drinks and additives that our youngsters are consuming, it begins to go against best practice for good sleep," she added.

According to the survey – which asked 1,006 grandparents with grandchildren aged seven to 14, to compare their early lifestyle with that of their grandchildren - 21 per cent said when they were children, they would spend more than three hours playing outside on the average school day. That compares to the 28 per cent who said their grandchildren now spend less than 30 minutes playing outside on the average school day.

When they were children, 24 per cent of grandparents went to bed on a school night between 7 – 7.30pm whereas a fifth of children these days go to bed between 8.30 – 9pm.

In terms of what they did before bedtime, more than half of the Coronation Generation read books when they were schoolchildren, whereas less than a third of today’s kids read books before bedtime - 58 per cent of them now spend that time watching television.

And while just three per cent of grandparents said they ate crisps and 1% drank fizzy drinks before bedtime, one in six of the Jubilee Generation has crisps before bed and 13 per cent have fizzy drinks.

In terms of main meals, 70 per cent of grandparents ate dinner before 6pm whereas a far lower 38 per cent of children now eat that early. Just over half eat between 6pm – 7.30pm.

But what they eat has changed even more radically than when they eat. For 95 per cent of grandparents, the average evening meal was home cooked when they were children: today, for just over a quarter of children, dinner time means swift, ready made convenience meals.  

And whereas playing outside was normal when today’s grandparents were children, two thirds stated that their grandchildren now play computer games in their spare time.

On the positive side, 36 per cent of grandparents had to share a bedroom when they were children whereas almost three quarters of children now have their own bedroom. Furthermore, 63 per cent of them have a television in the room.

But best of all, while 37 per cent of grandparents slept on hand-me-down mattresses/beds, 78 per cent of today’s youngsters have a new one.

Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council said: “Having a new bed and, for the greater part, a room of their own is a significant step forward. Grotty old, hand-me-down mattresses in a room shared with other siblings is not conducive to a perfect sleeping environment.

“Along with a good supportive bed, also essential to achieving the all-important good night’s sleep that ensures children behave and perform at their best is plenty of fresh air and exercise, and establishing a regular bedtime that ensures sufficient sleep. Seven to 14-year-olds still need a good nine or 10 hours sleep a night.

“Not eating too close to bedtime and avoiding caffeine-fuelled pop is also important as is a well balanced, healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Ensuring the bedroom is not too hot or too cold, is kept dark, well ventilated and free from technology-led gadgets is also vital," she added.

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