Parents worry. They worry when their kids are asleep. They worry when their kids are awake. They worry when their kids are out late. They worry when their kids learn to drive. They worry about anything and everything. And now, new research may give parents something else to worry about……late night phone use.
Teenagers who use their mobile phones after lights out tend to sleep badly, leading to poorer mental health, lower self-esteem and increased problem behavior, research has found.
Murdoch and Griffith universities tracked the late-night mobile phone use, sleep and mental health indicators of more than 1,000 West Australian students over four years.
Murdoch’s lead researcher Lynette Vernon said by Year 11, nearly 80 per cent of the students used their phone after lights out.
The study asked students what time of the night they received or sent text messages and phone calls, as well as their perceptions about the quality of sleep they were getting. Researchers said, “We found that late night phone use directly contributed to poor sleep habits, which over time led to declines in overall wellbeing and mental health.”
According to a report in The Guardian, “Lead researcher, Lynette Vernon of Murdoch University in Perth, said her findings were evidence of the need for curfews for teenagers to be established around use of devices in their bedrooms. Adolescents who used their phones as alarms should replace them with clocks in order to maintain “physical boundaries”, she said.
Gizmodo.com quoted the study’s co-author, Dr Kathryn Modecki from the Griffith Menzies Health Institute, as saying –
“We found that those teenagers who start out as relatively ‘healthy’ in terms of their late-night mobile use early in high school, tend to show steeper escalations in their late-night mobile use over the next several years. This means that even when teens appear to have their technology and sleep under control early-on, they still require monitoring and education as they mature.”
If your knee-jerk reaction is to say, ‘just take away the phone,’ researchers would disagree.
Dr Vernon said that although these results were concerning, the answer was not as simple as just banning adolescent phone use.
“There are many potential benefits of mobile technology, but these results demonstrate the importance of adults ‘meeting teens where they are’, enforcing electronic curfews, and teaching good sleep habits during the high school years.”
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this new study and how we can work to find the right balance between allowing kids to have their phones and making sure those phones do not take over their late-night lives. Generating meaningful dialogue around these types of headline grabbing health issues is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!