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Touchscreen Devices Are Changing How Toddlers Sleep

There's bad news and good news if your kid is always on a smartphone or tablet.

Your toddler loves playing games and watching videos on your tablet, but if you want him to get as much sleep as possible, you may want to consider these new findings.

According to a study from Birbeck, University of London, which asked 715 parents of children under 3 years old about their child's sleep patterns and smartphone and tablet habits, toddlers who use these touchscreen devices tend to get slightly less sleep at night than those who do not, reports the BBC.

How much sleep are we talking about exactly? Researchers found on average toddlers lost 15 minutes of sleep per night for every hour they spent on a device. Considering the children in the study used their smartphone or tablet for about 25 minutes per day, that would mean they're only losing about 6 minutes of sleep, which isn't a lot, but for kids who use touchscreens for much longer, those minutes can really add up.

"It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10 to 12 hours a day in total," Tim Smith, PhD, one of the researchers, tells the BBC News website, "but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep." His suggestion: Parents may want to limit how often they allow their toddlers to use their tech devices and prevent their kiddos from using their touchscreens an hour before they call it a night.

According to a 2015 study of kids' optimal sleep ranges, toddlers should be getting 11 to 14 hours of sleep each night.

Touchscreen use isn't all bad, however. Researchers found that kids who spend time on tablets and smartphones were able to develop their fine motor skills faster than kids who don't.

The study, which is published in the journal Scientific Reports, also looked at how many youngsters are using tablets and smartphones these days and how often they use them. The research showed that 75 percent of toddlers use a touchscreen device every day, and 51 percent of them are only between six and 11 months old. Among tots between 25 and 36 months old, a whopping 92 percent use touchscreens on the daily.

Since touchscreens are typically found on tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets, which emit blue light, the findings aren't entirely surprising. Studies have shown that blue light affects circadian rhythms, causing people to take longer to fall asleep or wake up, so it's possible that exposure to the blue light is the reason for the association between sleep problems and touchscreen use.

Although the study isn't saying your tablet or smartphone will definitely cause your toddler to sleep less, the findings are a good reminder that we should monitor how often kids get screen time.

Written by Maricar Santos for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.


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