A growing body of research suggests that heavy usage of technology devices is negatively impacting people’s sleep quality. While the issue is becoming more prevalent across all age groups, there has been a particular focus on children and teens. Indeed, figures revealed by the NHS in March 2017 show that three times as many children under 14 are being admitted into hospital with sleeping disorders compared with ten years ago.
Them, more recently in May 2017, researchers at Birkbeck, University of London, published the findings from a study exploring how technology affects the very young in particular. The study, which involved 715 parents of under three years olds, found that children lose 15 minutes of sleep for every hour they spend each day using touchscreen devices.
The double-edged sword of technology in the home
Mums have not been oblivious to issues surrounding their children and sleep, with research from Mintel’s Lifestyles of Mums UK report showing that 27% of mums worry about their children getting enough sleep, while 39% are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on technology devices.
However, for many parents today, technology has become a much needed second pair of hands as they seek to juggle childcare with the many other household and work-related demands they face. Indeed, almost half of mums agree that their children use tablets, mobile phones or computers to occupy themselves when they are busy.
Helping children to sleep
Despite technology’s relatively negative associations when it comes to sleep, there is scope for technology brands in particular to use children’s proclivity for devices as a way of helping them to sleep better.
For example, brands can create “detox functions” that allow parents to block usage during certain periods of time. This could see technology turn itself off or being remotely blocked at a predetermined time before bedtime, encouraging children to go and get ready for bed, but also during mealtimes and family activities. This could be particularly appealing to parents of teenage children, who are perhaps more likely to be using technology unmonitored.
Brands can also further develop wearable technology for children that will encourage them to get more sleep. For example, Apple’s “Bedtime” feature, launched June 2016, allows users to track how much sleep they are getting as well as charting how well they sleep each night. For children, this information could feed directly to parent’s devices and be attached to rewards to encourage children to willingly put down their technology devices before bedtime.
Jack Duckett, Senior Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel, joined the company as a Research Executive in August 2012. He specialises in working on reports for the household and food & drink sectors. Jack also has a keen interest in social media and cultural trends.