It may seem like an easy form of entertainment and distraction, but tots and tech don’t mix well. For starters, research shows that heavy use of touchscreen devices is associated with weight gain and cognitive delays in little ones. What’s more, it can also negatively impact a child’s sleep: Those who spend a lot of time in front of a screen tend to go to bed later, take longer to fall asleep, and sleep fewer hours than those with less exposure to these devices.
That lost sleep is significant: For every hour spent using a tablet device, infants and toddlers get 15.6 minutes less sleep, and older kids miss out on an average of 26.4 minutes of sleep nightly. (Infants need 12 to 15 hours of sleep a day and 1- to 2-year-olds require 11 to 14 hours, so every missed minute matters.)
To improve your child’s chances for a good night’s sleep, follow these three rules when it comes to touchscreen devices:
- Keep kids younger than 18 months away from touchscreens altogether, with the exception of video chatting.
- Should you decide to introduce your child to digital media after that age, look for high-quality programming and educational apps that will engage a child’s mental and motor skills in beneficial ways.
- Whenever possible, use the device together with your child. This way, you can help control how much time is spent in front of the screen, while also boosting learning opportunities since you’ll be right there to answer any questions as they come up.
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