Are Touch Screens Robbing Toddlers of Sleep?

New study finds a link between more screen time and sleep
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2017 10:28 AM CDT
Are Touch Screens Robbing Toddlers of Sleep?
Time spent with touch screens is linked to worse sleep quality in babies and toddlers.   (Getty/AleksandarNakic)

It's been established that screen time in its traditional form—think television and video games—is linked to sleep problems in kids, note researchers in introducing their more specific study: one that, for the first time, looks at touch-screen use among very young children. What they found is a link to poorer sleep, and it starts as early as infancy. Reporting in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers find that the more kids ages 6 months to 3 years use touch screens during the day, the longer it takes them to fall asleep and the less sleep they log in total. The study is observational and does not prove that the use of touch screens causes sleep issues, but researchers say the link warrants further study.

According to a survey of 715 UK parents, kids 6 to 11 months old use touch screens (in the form of smartphones and/or tablets) an average of 8 minutes a day. That goes up to 19 minutes for kids ages 12 to 18 months, up again to 25 minutes for kids 19 to 25 months, and up again to 44 minutes for 2-year-olds, reports Live Science. Every hour of additional touch-screen use was associated with about 15 minutes less total sleep, though interestingly that increase in use was linked to 26 fewer minutes at night but 11 more during daytime napping. It's unclear why, though Gizmodo notes artificial lighting has been shown to disrupt the body's circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep. (Less sleep in kids is linked to ADHD and behavioral problems.)

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