Digital technology is increasingly important in people’s lives, particularly for new parents as it allows them to access information, stay connected to peers and offers them solutions for improving infant sleep and parental well-being. However, there are also risks associated with digital technologies such as excessive use leading to sleep deprivation or anxiety.
In this blog I aim to explore whether digital health tools can be used positively by parents with young infants by:
Digital technologies are being used more frequently and purposefully by millennial parents—those who were born between 1981 and 1996—who have grown up in the digital age and are now raising families. Digital parenting technologies are now widely available and offer novel and alluring answers to the enduring stresses of new motherhood, such as sleep deprivation, work-life balance, and meeting social and familial expectations. The use of digital tools in nighttime baby care must be carefully considered given their potential to affect attitudes and behaviours about normal and safe newborn sleep. In this blog, I present an informed assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the various digital health technologies that are available to new parents.
Over the past few centuries, sleep habits in Western industrialised cultures have undergone significant change. Normative expectations of 8 hours of unbroken sleep are common today, and both children and adults display a monophasic sleep pattern. A shifting landscape for sleep has resulted from social changes over the past century, including urbanisation, the widespread use of artificial lighting, the introduction of shift employment, and the accessibility of screen-based digital media. With the rapid advancement of digital technology in the twenty-first century, we have created a world that Coveney refers to as "wired awake," and as a result, sleep has come under intense scrutiny in modern life, especially with the rise of wearable technology and phone applications.
What effects does digital technology have on parent and child sleep?
Although they come in a variety of formats, including monitors, AI-enabled responders, internet-connected cribs, informational websites, blogs, podcasts, social media forums, apps, and digital trackers, digital tools focusing on sleep primarily fall into four categories:
Websites Providing digital information on infant sleep
Although there is value in using digital tools to provide information about infant sleep, I would also like to highlight that these tools are only as good as the data that is fed into them. Not all parents have the knowledge or expertise to distinguish reliable information or websites from clickbait or advertising. The cultural narratives surrounding nighttime infant care can be greatly influenced by social media and baby sleep apps, yet many of these platforms prioritise profits over the safety and wellbeing of parents and babies. Digital parent support options including free or inexpensive online communities and ad-free, evidence-based digital support treatments are valuable in my opinion.
The more costly digital devices have the potential to stifle responsive parenting, promote parent-child separation at night, and prey on parental fears. New digital technologies must improve parent-child interactions, teach parents about infant cues, and improve infant care practises in order to be useful. I encourage parents to use their phones, tablets, and other digital devices as informational tools to learn about their babies' sleep needs and sleep development as well as to connect with other parents to share knowledge and experiences, rather than as means of babysitting their children remotely or filling in for absent parents.
About the Blogger: Amitabh kumar is a child online safety expert, on a mission to make the internet safer for children. He has an out of the box approach towards practical implementation of safety standards on the internet. He works in diverse capacities with big tech companies, like Meta, Twitter, Byte Dance, Netflix, Disney and many more. He is also the CEO and Co-Founder of Wranga: Digital Parenting Platform.