Teenagers, social media, mental health & sleep – the latest research findings

There have been a number of news stories this week reporting studies into teenagers, access to social media and the effect on their mental health and sleep.

So what does it all mean for you as a parent, and for your teenage son or daughter?

There were 2 studies reported.

  1. Survey on sleep & social medialooked at the bedtime and sleep patterns of 400 12 – 13 year olds and 400 14 – 15 year olds.
  2. Another Glasgow uni study on teens & social mediaasked 460 teens aged 11 -17 about their social media habits, especially at night.

Here are the headline findings:

Study 1

  • More than 20% of teens say they “almost always” wake up during the night to check or to post messages.
  • More than half of those who do wake up in the night said that they “almost always” go to school in the morning feeling tired. This was a higher percentage than for those who don’t wake up to check their phones.
  • The Welsh study concludes that waking up to use social media in the night has a greater effect on how tired the teen is than how long they have spent in bed.

Study 2

  1. Overall use of social media affects the quality of sleep for all teenagers, especially for those who log on at night.
  2. Many teens feel under pressure to respond immediately to posts and messages.
  3. Use of social media was related to lower levels of self-esteem, and higher levels of anxiety and depression in the teens surveyed.

So what’s the advice?

  • The author of the Glasgow study recommends introducing a “digital sunset”. just as the sun goes down before bedtime, so should the use of mobiles/tablets and social media. Allow an hour free before going to bed.
  • Mobiles and the social media they carry, stop teens from sleeping. Keep mobile phones out of bedrooms at night.
  • Be aware of your son or daughter’s use of social media. You don’t need to friend or follow them, but if you pay the bill, ask to see what they are looking at and posting every now and then.
  • And lead by example – turn your phone off at night too, have some down time from it and leave those texts, posts, messages and tweets till the morning!
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