Researchers at Birkbeck and King's College London questioned more than 700 parents about their child's daily touchscreen use and sleep patterns. They found that babies and toddlers who spent more time using a touchscreen slept less at night. And despite sleeping more during the day, the touchscreen users slept for less time overall and took longer to fall asleep.
Troubling findings, considering sleep is important for cognitive development, especially during the first few years of life. Yet 75 percent of the toddlers (between 6 months and 3 years) used a touchscreen on a daily basis—and for every additional hour of touch screen use during the day, the kids were sleeping for nearly 16 minutes less in each 24-hour period.
"These results indicate that the popularity and accessibility of touchscreen devices has led to high levels of usage by babies and toddlers, and this is associated with reduced sleep," explained study author Dr. Tim Smith. "Future research is now needed to try [to] understand whether touchscreen use is causing sleep problems and how types of use may mitigate these risks."
Interestingly enough, Dr. Smith says that earlier studies showed that increased active touchscreen use—scrolling, rather than passively watching videos, for example—was actually associated with earlier achievement in fine motor milestones in babies.
"Before totally restricting touchscreen use, which might have potential benefits," he explained, "we need to understand in-depth how to use this modern technology in a way that maximizes benefits and minimizes any negative consequences for young children."