When it comes to getting a rowdy toddler or preschooler to settle down, most parents will try almost anything once if it means they get a break from their kid's high-energy antics. So, if ASMR videos can help toddlers and young kids relax, are they worth a watch?
If you're unfamiliar with ASMR videos — ASMR is an acronym for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response — you might find them a bit strange at first glance. The videos (often homemade and posted on YouTube) include sounds such as light tapping, brushing, or crinkling to evoke a specific relaxation response.
"ASMR is a deeply relaxing feeling with light brain tingles which is stimulated when you are receiving positive, personal attention from a kind and caring person. These moments can often happen between parents and children, clients and hairdressers, students and teachers, patients and health professionals, romantic partners, and best friends. ASMR videos simulate these real world scenarios and triggers to provide relaxation to viewers," Craig Richard Ph.D., Founder of the website ASMR University tells Romper.
One way to think of it is like an imaginary scalp massage. When listening to the sounds in the videos, people may feel tingles on the back of their neck or head to stimulate relaxation. But, is this something that young kids can benefit from?
"Published research studies demonstrate that ASMR helps people to feel more relaxed, more comforted, and able to fall asleep more easily," Richard explains. "These are benefits that would be helpful to a young child dealing with stress to help them feel less anxious during the day and to fall asleep more easily at night."
During periods of stress, these videos could be one way parents help calm and relax their children. "ASMR videos may help children who are stressed, especially in families that are disrupted due to COVID-19," Kelly Carlson, Ph.D., a board-certified Advanced Practice Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner tells Romper. "If these videos are helpful to individual children, they may work to deactivate the stress response and assist with coping."
Although Carlson explains that "there is little evidence that ASMR videos are beneficial in children," she says they may be helpful for young children who have a hard time settling down for bedtime.
"ASMR is just a new term for a very old physiological response that has probably always allowed parents to soothe and comfort children. It is likely that babies are born with a very strong ability to experience ASMR, which explains why most parents naturally soothe infants with whispering, light touches, caring gazes, and kind dispositions — all things we refer to today as 'ASMR triggers,'" Richard explains. "Therefore, using ASMR triggers with young children is just a new term for something many caring parents already do, and these behaviors are already understood to be healthy and helpful for young children."
Watching videos isn't the only way to create an ASMR response. If you, like Carlson find some of the online videos to be "a bit weird," it may be worth trying to evoke ASMR triggers if your child is struggling to calm themselves. "I understand the videos are trying to mimic attachment cues designed to promote positive emotions and prosocial behavior," she explains. "Children who have problems with sensory integration may respond paradoxically to desired effects."
You can actually try to evoke an ASMR response yourself the next time your toddler's tantrum switch starts to flip. "Many parents are probably already unconsciously using ASMR triggers to calm and soothe their children throughout the day. Being more aware of these triggers can assist a parent to more easily turn a stressful moment into a calm moment," Richard says.
"The general approach to stimulating ASMR is being gentle, caring, and non-threatening," he says. "Specific parental ASMR behaviors and triggers include providing positive, personal attention with a gentle voice, a caring tone, slow and deliberate movements, and a light touch to express compassion. At bedtime, parents could whisper a story instead of reading it aloud, slowly turn the pages to accentuate the sound, and trace the illustrations with their fingers — all of these actions enhance the positive, personal attention moment."
Craig Richard Ph.D., Founder of the website, ASMR University