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Study links use of touchscreens to missed sleep in toddlers

Toddlers who use a touchscreen spend less time sleeping at night, according to a new study conducted at Birkbeck University and King’s College, University of London.

The researchers surveyed 715 parents about their child’s use of touchscreen and typical sleep patterns, and found that those who spent more time using a touchscreen slept more during the day, but less overall and took longer to fall asleep at night time. Every additional hour spent using a touchscreen during the day led to an average of 16 minutes less sleep in any 24-hour period.

The study also found that 75% of children aged between six months and three years were using a touchscreen on a daily basis, increasing from 51% of those aged 6-11 months up to 92% of those aged 25-36 months.

However, previous research from Birkbeck has also found that active touchscreen use is linked to accelerated development of motor skills.

Dr Tim Smith from Birkbeck said: “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. Future research is now needed to build on this initial study to try and understand whether touchscreen use is causing sleep problems and how types of use may mitigate these risks.”