Screen-time has little practical effect on the quality of children's sleep, according to new research from the University of Oxford.
The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, was conducted using data from 50,212 children in the 2016 US National Survey of Children's Health. Parents completed self-report surveys on themselves, their children and households.
The data revealed that each hour devoted to digital screens was associated with 3 to 8 fewer minutes of nightly sleep and lower levels of sleep consistency. Furthermore, those children who complied with the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics guidance on screen time limits reported 26 more minutes of nightly sleep.
However, links between digital screen time and paediatric sleep outcomes were modest, accounting for less than 1.9% of observed variability in sleep outcomes.
An analysis of the data concluded that digital screen time, on its own, has little practical effect on paediatric sleep. Contextual factors surrounding screen time exerted a more pronounced influence on sleep compared to screen time itself.
Study author Professor Andrew Przybylski said: “It is important that scientists, policymakers, practitioners, and parents place these findings in real-world terms. If one compares the average nightly sleep of a tech-abstaining teenager (8 hours 51 minutes) with one who devotes 8 hours a day to screens (8 hours 21 minutes), the differences, in terms of displacement, are inconsequential compared with contextual factors known to influence sleep and behaviour such as early starts to the school day.”
“This is not to say we should not study the effects of digital screens, but to highlight the fact that those working in this area must articulate what does and what does not constitute a practically meaningful effect on theoretical or medical grounds before conducting research studies,” he said.