If you're worried about your kids not getting enough shut-eye because of the time they spend on their smartphones and computers, playing Xbox, or watching Netflix, new research may ease that parental guilt—somewhat. The BBC reports on a new study out of Oxford University that found any ties between screen time and children's sleep were "extremely modest," and researchers were even able to put a number on how much sleep was lost at night with each daily hour of screen time: three to eight minutes. "Digital screen time, on its own, has little practical effect on pediatric sleep," the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics notes, adding that "contextual factors surrounding screen time exert a more pronounced influence on pediatric sleep compared to screen time itself."
The scientists used data from a 2016 US survey of parents that contained questions on the electronic-device habits of more than 50,000 kids between 6 months and 17 years. Teens who stared at a screen for eight hours a day, for example, got only a half-hour or so less sleep a day (an average of 8 hours, 21 minutes) than teens who didn't have any screen time. Critics of the study say self-reporting from parents may not be the most reliable assessment—the study's lead author, Andrew Przybylski, himself notes the data used is "imperfect"—and there are still concerns about kids sneaking phones into bed (i.e., staying up later) and the effects of late-night blue light. Still, Przybylski and his team think other variables, such as consistent bedtime routines, are "much more effective" in ensuring kids sleep better at night, per a release. (Blue light from electronic devices could be doing a number on your kids' eyes.)