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New study shows: Smartphones shorten sleep in babies and toddlers


Babies and toddlers sleep less well using touchscreens
Most parents are probably aware of sleeping problems with their offspring. Possible causes are searched in different directions. A recent study by British scientists has now shown that the use of touchscreens in young children has an extremely disadvantageous effect on sleeping behavior.

According to the researchers, it was already known that spending time in front of the television and the game console can lead to sleeping problems for the children. Nowadays, however, portable touch screens (smartphones and tablets) are almost everywhere and babies often play with their parents' cell phones. In their current study, the scientists at Birkbeck University of London and King’s College London therefore investigated the effects of touchscreen use on children's sleeping behavior. The researchers published their results in the scientific reports.

Every additional hour on the smartphone shortens sleep
In total, the researchers surveyed 715 parents about their children's daily touchscreen use, sleep and sleep patterns. They found that babies and toddlers who spent more time on a touchscreen slept less at night. They did show a little more sleep during the day, but overall their sleep times remained shorter and it took them longer to fall asleep, the researchers report. For every additional hour of touchscreen use during the day, the children would have slept almost 16 minutes less in a 24 hour period.

75 percent of the children use touchscreens
"Sleep is important for cognitive development - especially in the early years of life," the British scientists emphasize. In the long term, the lack of sleep could have significant disadvantages for the children affected. In 2014, 75 percent of toddlers (between the ages of six months and three years) used a touchscreen daily, with 51 percent of the children between the ages of six and eleven months using touchscreens and 92 among the children between the ages of 25 and 36 months Percent.

High accessibility of the touchscreen devices with an impact on sleep
The latest study results show that "the popularity and accessibility of touchscreen devices has led to a high level of use among babies and toddlers, which is related to reduced sleep," said Dr. Tim Smith from Birkbeck University of London. Further studies are now needed to investigate the connection between touchscreen use and sleep problems and how the type of use can reduce the risk.

Maximize benefits, minimize disadvantages
According to the scientists, it should also be noted that using the touchscreen does not only have disadvantages for the children. Previous studies would have shown that increased active touchscreen use (e.g. scrolling and clicking instead of watching videos passively) was associated with improved fine motor skills in toddlers. Instead of completely preventing access to smartphones and tablets, it is therefore important to understand how to use this modern technology in a way that maximizes the benefits and minimizes negative consequences for small children, the researchers conclude. (fp)

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