Children are being introduced to technology at a much younger age than ever before. Over half of all kids between the ages of 8 and 12 already have their own cellphone. Almost 40 percent of children younger than 2 have used a mobile gadget for entertainment.
But is their health being negatively impacted by using these devices? If you have children or grandchildren you need to know what a recent study discovered.
Are touchscreens affecting children's' sleep?
You probably know how crucial it is for toddlers to get their sleep. The National Sleep Foundation said sleep is especially important for children, as it directly impacts mental and physical development.
With the increasing number of children exposed to smartphones and tablets, Birbeck University of London studied the effects gadgets have on their sleep patterns. Researchers found that kids between 6 and 11 months old who play with touchscreen devices sleep less than those who don't.
The study shows that every hour of touchscreen use resulted in a little more than 15 minutes of sleep loss per 24 hours. The children on average would sleep 26.4 minutes less per night and sleep 10.8 minutes more during naps in the daytime.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Tim Smith, told the BBC, "It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep. The study seems to indicate touchscreens have some association with possible sleep problems."
Even though this sounds bad, totally eliminating a child's gadget usage isn't recommended. That's because there are many benefits that come with using touchscreen devices. For example, gadgets have been found to accelerate a toddler's motor development.
What you need to do
There needs to be more studies on the effects of children using touchscreen devices before a final conclusion is made. In the meantime, Dr. Smith recommends following these guidelines:
- Put a limit on the total time children spend on gadgets each day
- Make sure your kids are participating in physical activities
- Verify that the content your child is viewing is age-appropriate
- Don't let your child use a touchscreen device during the hour before bedtime
If you follow these common sense rules, your child will be fine using a touchscreen. Just remember to maintain a healthy balance.