A new report finds a correlation between toddler screen time and the amount of sleep they get, and researchers advise parents to think twice about screen time in very young children.
As the world turns into a modern smorgasbord of technological devices and electronic offerings, the question of how to moderate these devices in our children’s lives comes up regularly.
Now researchers from Birbeck University of London are offering some information that may make a difference in how we appropriately ration screen time. They looked at the information given by 715 parents in an online survey who had children between the ages of six and eleven months.
What they found was that similarly to the effects television watching has on young children, the use of electronic devices like smartphones and tablets has a distinct correlation with reduced sleep in toddlers, as well as the number of night-time wakeups.
It’s no secret that the brain’s ability to make neural connections, or it’s neuroplasticity, is at its highest and speediest during infancy. Sleep is when many of these neural networks are created and developed, and sleep is critical to our brains as they are very first developing.
The research showed that every hour of touchscreen time the studied infants had resulted in about 15.6 minutes less sleep. While that doesn’t seem like a huge amount of sleep that is lost in the 10-12 hours a night that is recommended for a toddler to sleep, it is important when you recognize just how important sleep is to brain function, especially a developing brain’s function.
Researchers don’t believe that this new information should be grounds to restrict the usage of tablets/smartphones in infants altogether, as previous research has shown that the use of those same electronic devices can accelerate the speed of a toddler’s motor development when compared to peers who don’t use them.
Rather, they believe that the minimization of screen time in favor of personal interaction and activity or physical toys makes the best use of common sense with electronic devices.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour a day for children between the ages of two and five, and for children 18 months or younger, they recommend no ‘plugged-in’ time with the exception of video chatting.
The researchers believe that when parents look at the boundaries for screen time in their children, they should consider limiting/eliminating touchscreen use (many of which emit ‘blue light’) before bed, as is currently recommended for adults as well.