Late-Night Phone Use is Harming Teenagers’ Mental Health
A study shows that teenagers’ mental health and sleep quality is at risk due to their use of mobile phones late at night
A study that was conducted over a period of 4 years found that poor quality sleep, associated with late-night calling or texting, was linked to a decline in mental health. There were reports of depressed moods and declines in coping ability and self-esteem.
Researchers examined 1,101 Australian high school students between the ages of 13 and 16 and advised that their findings of decreased levels of mental health meant that “physical boundaries” should be set over the use of devices at bed time. Lynette Vernon, lead researcher at Murdoch University in Perth, suggested that adolescents who use their phones as alarms should use clocks instead, to maintain the boundaries.
The link between late-night phone use and sleep, and between sleep and wellbeing has already been well established in previous research, however this was the first study to combine and assess all three together, Vernon said. The research found that phones disrupted sleep due to the bright light from screens disrupting natural circadian rhythms. Vernon also explained that messages received before sleep spiked “cognitive and emotional arousal”. She continued to warn that mobile phones had become entrenched in young people’s lives, many without usage restrictions.
“It’s important to have the research to translate to parents and teachers, who probably haven’t experienced to the same extent what kids are doing.
“If you’re finding your son or daughter is more moody and not coping at school, you often put that down to adolescence – but it could be as simple as them not sleeping at night.”
Teenagers who admitted to “constantly texting into the night” said the problem had worsened when they were surveyed a year later. “It’s escalating – they’re highly invested in it ... Some kids are staying up until 3am.”, warned Vernon.
She explained that education was the best preventative method. “Back when they’re aged seven to 10, you have to role model – you put your phone in a basket at night, it doesn’t go into your bedroom, it becomes normalised in the household and you have a much easier job.”