New Study: Screen Time Doesn’t Impact Kids’ Sleep As Much As Thought

Turns out that screen time might not be as bad before bedtime as originally thought. A new study from Oxford research shows that screen time has little impact on the quality of children’s sleep.

With screens being a constant in most households now and with many children having their own screens, research indicating that 50-90 percent of children might not be getting enough sleep has previously blamed technology. But now finding from Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute has shown there is very little practical effect on kids’ sleep.

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“The findings suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, the author of the study which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics. “Every hour of screen time was related to 3 to 8 fewer minutes of sleep a night.”

Parents from across the United States completed self-reported surveys asking about themselves, their children and their households.

Based on that, even though a correlation between screen time and sleep in children may exist, the impacts might be too insignificant to make a dramatic difference in a child’s sleep.

Comparing the average nightly sleep of a teen that spends eight hours on screen devices to a teen that doesn’t use tech and/or screens at all found little difference. Teen with more screen time slept for an average of 8 hours and 21 minutes and the teen who was screen-free slept 8 hours and 51 minutes.

“While a relationship between screens and sleep is there, we need to look at research from the lens of what is practically significant,” Przybylski said. “Because the effects of screens are so modest, it is possible that many studies with smaller sample sizes could be false positives — results that support an effect that in reality does not exist.”

In fact, the study found that other factors – such as early school schedules – had more of an impact on children’s sleep than screen time.

“This suggests we need to look at other variables when it comes to children and their sleep,” Przybylski said. Analysis in the study indicated that variables within the family and household were significantly associated with both screen use and sleep outcomes. “Focusing on bedtime routines and regular patterns of sleep, such as consistent wake-up times, are much more effective strategies for helping young people sleep than thinking screens themselves play a significant role.”

Przybylski said that the next step is to look at research on the exact variables that link screens and sleep.

“Though technologies and tools relating to so-called ‘blue light’ have been implicated in sleep problems, it is not clear whether play a significant causal role,” Przybylski said. “Screens are here to stay, so transparent, reproducible, and robust research is needed to figure out how tech affects us and how we best intervene to limit its negative effects.”

You can find the full study here.

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  1. I’m not surprised by this. I have never been in the “screens are bad” camp. My kids have a lot of screen time – education and otherwise – and they sleep just fine.

  2. That is interesting. I’ve never thought that it was the screen time that impacted a child’s sleep as much as parenting style, but since the ‘experts’ said it did I just believed them. My kids always enjoyed Tv and it never seemed to impact their sleep at all.

  3. Such a very interesting post to read. I think we don’t need to blame the technology when it comes to our child’s sleep. As a parent we need to do our part we should make a bedtime routine and limit their screen time for them to be able to achieve the complete hours of sleep. People can adjust but I think technology can’t.

  4. So interesting! I’m going to have to look more into this! I definitely thing it depends on the child though. I do notice a HUGE difference with my son, but not with my daughters.

  5. That’s really interesting! I believe there are a lot of factors that affect kids’ sleep and not just screen time. After all, a well-balanced schedule for kids is really important. Thanks so much for sharing this post.

  6. I think this is an interesting study, and agree wholeheartedly with the statement that we need more robust research. I also agree that sleep routines are more important for children’s sleep than any other variable. But, that’s just an anecdotal evidence from my experience as a parent.
    Hopefully they get more research on this, and on how devices can actually be used to improve sleep schedules!

  7. My kids grew up during that time when gadgets were not that popular (yet). However, my grandchildren are the ones who now get screen time. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it because I saw how they were able to learn new things by watching pre-K learning videos and apps. Oh yes, and they do sleep like any other toddler their age.

  8. I think that this is something that was just never really looked at as in depth before – people just assumed. I know that I watch TV as I fall asleep.

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  10. The sense I’ve always gotten is that it’s partly the blue light (which one can account for some now with the new night-setting mode on many devices) and partly the mental stimulation/engagement of , say. gaming. That (engagement) factor is the exact reason I don’t read my old-fashioned analog books before bed. (I do NOT read for pleasure on devices – for me, it’s gotta be curling up with a book, since I stare at a screen all day for work!) When I want to unwind before bed, I do quiet things and then do a meditative breathing app that doesn’t require screen time per se. I do it with the kids sometimes too. The important thing is not what you’re doing per se, but whether it will ramp up your brain/alertness or help shut it off!


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