Teenagers’ sleep quality and mental health at risk over late-night mobile phone use

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Globally, 80% of teens have access to a cell phone and it's an important part of their life. Many teens have stated they can't live without their phones and research shows 50% state they are addicted to their phones. Adolescence is a time where friends and peers take on an important role. Cell phones allow teens to remain in constant communication with their friends, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A new study published in the journal, Child Development shows a direct correlation between nighttime cell phone use, disturbed sleep, and an increased risk of depression, risk taking behavior, and low self esteem. The study followed about 1,100 teens over a four year period from the age of 13 to 16. Authors found a direct link between increased cell phone use at night, sleep deprivation and depressed mood.

Exposure to bright light emitted from cellphones and other devices has been shown to alter the sleep wake cycle by decreasing the release of melatonin. In addition it is theorized the content of texts, messages, and phone calls increases cognitive and emotional arousal just before bedtime thus making it harder to fall asleep.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, depression, increased risk taking behavior, poor concentration and attention, and low self esteem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidelines for digital media use in teens. Digital media should not interfere with a healthy lifestyle including sleep and physical activity. Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep and at least one hour of exercise each day. Cell phone use should not interfere with a healthy lifestyle.

Parents should talk to their kids about the risk of cell phone use at night and sleep deprivation. Teens should not sleep with screens in their bedrooms, including TVs, computers, and smartphones. A digital curfew should be set and this should be at least thirty minutes before bedtime.

Families can develop smartphone contracts. The teen and parent sign the contract and if it is broken there are consequences.

All devices can be charged in the parent's room over night.

There is an app called "OurPact" which allows a control phone to block or turn off any other smart phone in the home. It has a free version or a version that is $4.99/month.