Touchscreens and Toddlers: New Research All Parents Must Read

Image via Flickr/ Jim Bauer

All parents are familiar with the temptation to hand over a device to a toddler to keep her entertained on a long car ride, during a long wait at a restaurant, or just to buy a few moments of peace to make a phone call or cook dinner. What's the harm? While a little screen time is nothing to worry about, a new study links touchscreens to a loss of sleep for children.  

According to Scientific Reports, touchscreens being used daily can have some negative effects on the sleeping habits of young children. According to this report, every hour a child spends on a mobile device could result in about 15 minutes of lost sleep a day. This is especially concerning for babies and toddlers since sleep can strongly impact their development. Plus, as parents we want our kids to sleep as well as they can!

Richard Peterson—VP of Education at Kiddie Academy, a nationwide leader in educational childcare, has some guidance and tips for parents to help break the touchscreen habit and to help babies and toddlers sleep better in general. 

{ MORE: Introducing the Smart Nursery: Devices for the Tech-Savvy Parent }

Peterson suggests:  

  • Try picking up a few disposable cameras and give them to your kids to go take pictures of their favorite things to do outside, or their friends, or their favorite flowers.  If indoors, kids can photograph things around the house. Technology is still involved, but you take the screens out of the equation and can still get the film developed and let them keep the pictures.
  • Studies show that “background TV” significantly affects “active play” or pretend play. Make it a point to turn the TV off when no one is actively watching it for a specific purpose. Try turning on the radio station during dinner prep and dinnertime instead of turning on your TV for background noise. Use a wireless Bluetooth speaker and choose an “evening chill out” station on Spotify or Pandora Radio to listen to together instead of having a screen on.  Have a family dance party!  
  • Use parent controls on tablets for young children (LeapPads, for example, have a locking feature that locks the technology after an hour of use and doesn’t unlock until a specified period of time – 2 hours or more).
  • Don’t use technology as a reward for playing outside! Playing outside is its own reward and the goal is to limit screen time, not ultimately increase it.
  • Drive until you lose cell coverage. Especially in the summer, there is something to be said for just driving until the phone bars disappear. Everyone passes through a small withdrawal period and then you all start to look up. And enjoy!

So, if you rely on a little screen time to keep yourself sane, don't stress. However, be aware of the effects too much screen time can have on little ones, especially touchscreens. And keep some alternative activities in mind. 

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Touchscreens and Toddlers: New Research All Parents Must Read

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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