New Study on Teens’ Electronics Use

Studies show that U.S. teens spend an average of 8.5 hrs per day on their electronics. Unfortunately, developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and risk-taking behavior. An area of the brain, called prefrontal cortex, which specializes in judgment, impulse control, and planning is still developing in adolescence.

A new study just published in Child Development demonstrates a correlation between late night cell phone use, disturbed sleep, increased risk of depression, risk-taking behavior, and low self-esteem. The study involved 1,1000 teens (ages 13 to16) and took place over 4 years.

This is not quite new information. Psychologists and physicians have known for a while that bright light from electronic screens can interfere with sleep cycles by tricking the brain into thinking that it is still daytime and decreasing production of melatonin. Additionally, the teens continue to think about texts and content of reading/video/audio material on devices and simply can’t relax enough to go to sleep.

Sleep deprivation has previously been demonstrated in research to be linked to depression, risk-taking behavior, poor self-esteem, poor attention, and obesity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged that teens get 8-10 hours of sleep every day.

Psychologists recommend the following for parents of teens:

  • Take TV, computer, tablets out of teen room permanently
  • Take cell phone out of the room at a time you both agree on (should be a time that would allow your teen to get at least 8 hrs of sleep)
  • If your teen insists on listening to music before going to sleep, buy a device that only plays music but doesn’t have a bright screen.
  • Charge all devices in the parents’ room
  • Use a regular alarm clock instead of a phone alarm clock


Published by Dr. Elena Mikalsen

I am a Clinical Psychologist and a novelist.

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