Children sleep less and have poorer sleep quality if they use smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices at night, a new study has warned.
Those between the ages of six and 15 are most likely to be affected, the researchers said, blaming video games, computers, phones, Internet use and television viewing.
In children aged five and under, television and tablets were the main culprits for shorter sleep.
Children sleep less and have poorer sleep quality if they use smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices at night, a new study has warned (stock image)
How much sleep do children need?
According to the NHS, the recommended sleep times are:
Infants from 4 to 12 months old – 12 to 16 hours including naps
Toddlers 1 to 2 years old – 11am to 2pm including naps
Kids 3 to 5 years old – 10am to 1pm including naps
Children from 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours
Teens from 13 to 18 – 8 to 10 o’clock
The University of Southern Denmark research reviewed 49 studies published between 2009 and 2019, involving between 55 and 369,595 children.
Experts looked at the association of electronic media use, including media type and duration, with sleep patterns.
The authors considered bedtime and falling asleep, sleep quality (waking up at night), sleep duration and daytime fatigue.
They found an association between the use of electronic devices and delayed bedtime and poor sleep quality in children aged six to 12, while screen time was associated with difficulty falling asleep in teens aged 13 to 15.
Social media use was also the cause of poor sleep quality in teens, the researchers said.
They say that these interactive media may be overly stimulating, which may explain why the age group is sleeping less.
In all age groups, exposure to blue light from screens can suppress the production of melatonin — the hormone that regulates sleep — leading to worse sleep duration and disruption of the natural sleep-wake cycle, the study finds.
Researchers found an association between electronic device use and delayed bedtime and poor sleep quality in children aged six to 12, while screen time was associated with difficulty falling asleep in teens aged 13 to 15 (stock image)
Lisbeth Lund, lead author, said: ‘It is important that children and adolescents get enough sleep to avoid negative health consequences.
“We also understand that media is an important part of our lives.
“Our findings suggest that parents may want to regulate how much their children interact with electronic media to potentially improve sleep.”
The 49 studies examined included children from North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other Western countries.
However, the study authors said most studies were observational and therefore did not allow for conclusions about cause and effect or the direction between the association of media use and sleep quality.
They said more research was needed to draw solid conclusions about the impact of electronic media on sleep.
“Public awareness and interventions could be promoted about the potential negative impact on children’s sleep of electronic media devices used excessively and close to bedtime,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
A previous study also warned that watching programs on devices for more than an hour a day can increase the risk of toddlers developing emotional and behavioral problems.
These problems include hyperactivity, poor concentration, short attention span, and difficulty connecting with other children and forging friendships.
The researchers, led by social scientist Janette Niiranen of the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare in Helsinki, speculated that devices reduce the time children spend reading, playing and interacting with family or other young people.
The latest research is published in the journal BMC Public Health.
HOW MUCH SCREEN TIME SHOULD TEENAGERS GET?
A recent study from San Diego State University found that the happiest teens were those who limited their daily digital media time to just under two hours a day.
After this daily hour of screen time, the unhappiness steadily increased with increasing screen time.
Looking at historical trends of the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the increase in screen devices over time coincided with an overall decline in reported happiness among American teens.
Study participants born after 2000 were less satisfied with life, had lower self-esteem and were more unhappy than those growing up in the 1990s.
Since 2012, the satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness of the average teen has plummeted.
That year marked the point where the proportion of Americans with a smartphone rose above 50 percent for the first time.