Ringing, pinging devices are eating into children’s sleep and it’s undermining their happiness, a major new study into the wellbeing of younger Australians shows.

And this lack of sleep is associated with them feeling isolated and unsafe in their own homes.

The latest ‘Happiness Survey’ of almost 47,000 children has found that children who regularly have the recommended hours of sleep each night reported significantly higher levels of both happiness and feelings of safety.

The study showed 29 percent of children report they lose some sleep a week thanks to their devices, while researchers singled out the “shocking” statistic showing a 10 percent of kids feel unsafe in their own homes, making them four times more likely to lose sleep.

The data doesn’t give a cause and effect, but the University of Melbourne’s Professor Lisa Gibbs said it revealed a very strong association suggesting that if kids aren’t getting the right amount of sleep, then “something isn’t right”.

Key points:

  • 29 percent report that on at least some nights of the week their device stops them from getting enough sleep;
  • It’s more common for older children (aged 12-18), with 37 percent blaming their devices;
  • This compares with compared with 27 percent among younger kids (aged 6-11);
  • About 47 percent reported that they regularly slept within reach of their device.

The study showed 29 percent of children report they lose some sleep each week thanks to their devices. It’s also more common for older kids, with nearly 40 per cent of 12 to 18-year-olds blaming use of their devices for a lack of sleep.

“We ended up just asking them directly,” Gibbs, who chairs the University of Melbourne’s Children’s Lives Initiative, told HuffPost Australia.

“Isn’t it interesting that a third of kids recognise it was a factor in them not getting enough sleep. To me that says children are pretty savvy about their devices, they understand the pros and cons. That opens up the possibility of discussion in the household.

“It’s a changing space, and we have to be adept to keep up with it. It’s not that long ago where in our surveys we’d have to ask children about TVs in their bedroom. That’s redundant now.”

Sleep is important to a child’s development, with study after study showing poor sleep patterns at a young age can have long lasting effects such as weight gain or obesity.

Originally planned by the ABC’s Behind The News as a one-off online survey to engage its child viewers in mental health issues, the 2015 Happiness Survey proved popular and attracted almost 20,000 responses.

Now it has returned more than double that, with 47,000 children taking part in the 2017 edition. The University of Melbourne was brought on as a research partner to help interpret the results.

– Eoin Blackwell

Read more: Sleep And Safety: Our Children Have Their Say

Photo source – Flickr.com