The more toddlers play with touchscreen devices the less they sleep, according to a study released Thursday that suggests the findings could be cause for concern.
For every additional hour using a touchscreen phone or tablet during the day, children aged six months to three years slept nearly 16 minutes less in each 24 hour period, researchers reported.
Toddlers really need their sleep. It's crucial when our brains our first developing, so early problems can ripple across your lifetime. That makes a report by Birbeck University of London researchers somewhat disturbing -- they found that toddlers between six and 11 months who play with smartphones or tablets get slightly less sleep than those who don't. According to the study of 715 parents, every hour of touchscreen use results in 15.6 minutes less sleep, or 26.4 minutes less total per night and 10.8 minutes more during the day, on average.
Earlier research has shown that television watching and video game use are linked to sleep problems in children. But the burgeoning use of touchscreens by an even younger cohort remained unexplored.
In 2014, more than 70% of families in Britain, where the study was conducted, owned a touchscreen device. Three-quarters of toddlers monitored used a touchscreen tablet or phone on a daily basis. For children aged two or three, that percentage climbed to 92. On average, the devices were used 25 minutes per day.
Not only did more screen time correlate with less sleep, it was also associated with a longer transition into slumber. The quality of sleep, however, did not appear to change.
Several experts commenting on the findings challenged the study's methodology and conclusions.