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MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS HEALTH AND SAFETY NEWS

Electronic media disturbs teenage sleep, says study


  Child tablet
  image: Flickr/Stephen Cummings

Addiction to social media, video games and the Internet is contributing to the more than 70 per cent of South Australian teens who don’t get enough sleep every school night, a University of Adelaide study has found.

 

And there could be significant health problems for the percentage of teens that can’t control their night time use of mobile phones, laptops and tablets according to lead researcher Dr Daniel King from the University’s School of Psychology.

 
“Our study has found that more than 70% of adolescents are not receiving optimal sleep during weekdays, with use of electronic media delaying the time they go to bed, interrupting them during the night, and leading to longer times to achieve a deep sleep,” Dr King said.
 
“Lack of sleep can have significant health and mental health effects on young people, and can lead to problems with learning and concentration, poor eating habits, and a range of other behaviours that are either unhealthy or undesirable.”
 
The study published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction surveyed 1,287 students aged 12-18 from seven South Australian high schools about their electronic media use and their length and quality of sleep.
 
They found one in five students stayed up past their bedtime to use electronic devices, one in 10 suffered from not being able to get to sleep and one in 20 was affected by interrupted sleep.
 
“One of our concerns, and one of the reasons for conducting this study, was to better understand pathological electronic media use by adolescents,” Dr King said.
 
“This is a persistent pattern of media use that is not regulated or limited by the user, which interferes with other daily activities and commitments.”
 
“In total, about 10% of the young people we surveyed met some of the criteria for pathological electronic media use, which included internet use and online gaming. Our study suggests that adolescent sleep is significantly disrupted when electronic media is used pathologically.”
 
The study found participants who met clinical criteria for pathological media use went to bed on average 35-40 minutes later.
 
Only a small minority of the adolescents studied were getting optimal sleep, which is more than nine hours a night according to the National Sleep Foundation.
 
“In view of the potential negative impacts of excessive media use, there is a need for the continuing development and dissemination of public health guidelines to educate young people, parents, and teachers about responsible electronic media use during adolescence,” Dr King said.
 
AMTA Chief Executive Officer, Chris Althaus, said there is an important role for parents to supervise and monitor their children’s use of electronic devices so they can get a good night’s sleep.
 
“Social media, video games and mobile phone apps can all be significant distractions for children at bed time,” Mr Althaus said.
 
“Parents should set clear rules in the home about their children’s use of electronic devices, which may include curfews on their use or bans on devices in the bedroom.”
 
Mr Althaus said AMTA provide a range of tools and advice for parents about safe and responsible use of mobile phones at mobiletips.org.au
 

Published 9/04/2014

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