The relatively recently phenomenon of babies being raised with touchscreens has spawned all sorts of pop-science opinions and personal anecdotes. Some people believe that our children are being raised with a predestined addiction to smart devices, while others believe that they don’t cause enough harm to outright deny the kids their playtime.
But what does actual science say? Not much at the moment since this is still new for a growing generation, but tests on the effects of touchscreens on babies are already underway. One, from Birbeck University of London, says that there is a chance that toddlers ages 6-11 months could be missing out on important sleep if they frequently use a touchscreen.
The study involved 715 parents, and results show that for every hour a baby uses a touchscreen, that baby loses 15.6 minutes of sleep. Broken down further, that average comes out to 26.4 minutes per night and 10.8 minutes per day.
Study co-author Dr. Tim Smith told the BBC that the findings aren’t conclusive enough to prove harm is being done to the children, but it is important to remember how important sleep is during the first year of our lives.
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.
Don’t go banning playtime just yet
Smith admits that “it’s too early to make clear proclamations.” He also stated that while the numbers were there, babies often don’t use touchscreens for an hour, stopping often at just 25 minutes a day.
The children in this study used a touchscreen for about 25 minutes a day, a child who used a touchscreen for this average length of time would sleep for about 6 minutes less
As always, moderation is just as important in children as it is in adults. Touchscreens are obviously going to play a huge part in our future, and raising children who properly know how to use them is just preparing them for what lies ahead. However, blocks, toys, and other physical games that don’t intrude upon a child’s sleep are also important to helping their brains develop.