Is your child spending hours using social media apps on their mobile phone, playing video games, watching TV, or using their laptop? If so, you’re not alone.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that overall media use among adolescents has grown exponentially over the past 10 years, especially with increased mobile phone availability and use.According to Jessica C. Levenson, PhD, an expert on child and adolescent sleep issues at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh,  many parents are not placing consistent limits on their teenagers’ hours of media use each day despite AAP recommendations.

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Most Kids Are Media Multitasking

In fact, recent reports suggest that more than half of adolescents take their mobile phones to bed with them and keep them turned on while sleeping, and more than one-third report texting after going to bed.2 When considering total hours of media use through “media multitasking” (using more than one media source at a time), cumulative exposure to media averages about 23 hours per day among adolescents.

High levels of media exposure can sometimes be helpful. In addition to the entertainment value that media may provide, media also can expose adolescents to new ideas and current events, promote community participation, facilitate connection with long-distance friends and family, and enhance access to social networks.3

Nevertheless, media use can have negative consequences for various areas of adolescent health. The impact of media use on sleep is a concern because the majority of teens do not obtain the eight to 10 hours of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.4-7 Because sleep is critical to health and well-being, it is important to identify factors that may be contributing to adolescents’ poor sleep.

There is growing evidence that media use has a negative impact on adolescent sleep; for example texting at night has been associated with later bedtime, less time in bed, and daytime tiredness.8;9 Media use may impact sleep by delaying bedtime and displacing time available for sleep, contributing to mental activation that can hinder ease of falling asleep, and/or from the light from screen-based devices that can delay the onset of sleep.10

Tips For Limiting Impact of Media on Your Child’s Sleep

Here are some ideas for minimizing the impact media has on your child’s sleep:

  • Create, follow, and revise a Family Media Use Plan– recommends families create a Family Media Use Plan to address the type and amount of media use appropriate for each child. Two key components of the plan are to establish an electronics shut-off time and to discuss where electronics will be stored overnight.
  • Ensure that media devices are stored and charged outside of the child’s bedroom.
  • Set a bedtime routine that includes a bedtime set by parents (for older teens, set a bedtime with them collaboratively). Research suggests that parent-set bedtimes are associated with adolescents getting more sleep and feeling better during the day.11
  • Check out this Bedtime Calculator to monitor sleep.
  • If your child uses their mobile phone as an alarm clock, consider investing in a digital alarm clock from the drug store so that their phone will not sit by their bedside at night.

Set a good example for your child! To model healthy sleep/device management, youshould:

  • Store your mobile phone outside of your bedroom
  • Limit time using media devices
  • Increase time spent on physical activities
  • Demonstrate healthy sleep habits

Encourage healthy media use and healthy sleep habits for all the members of your family!

Reference List

(1)   AAP Council on Communications and Media. Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. Pediatrics 2016;138:e20162592.

(2)    Adachi-Mejia AM, Edwards PM, Gilbert-Diamond D, Greenough GP, Olson AL. TXT me I’m only sleeping: adolescents with mobile phones in their bedroom. Fam Community Health 2014;37:252-257.

(3)    Fobian AD, Avis K, Schwebel DC. Impact of Media Use on Adolescent Sleep Efficiency. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2016;37:9-14.

(4)    McKnight-Eily LR, Eaton DK, Lowry R, Croft JB, Presley-Cantrell L, Perry GS. Relationships between hours of sleep and health-risk behaviors in US adolescent students. Prev Med 2011;53:271-273.

(5)    Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM et al. National Sleep Foundations’ sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health 2015;1:40-43.

(6)    Eaton DK, McKnight-Eily LR, Lowry R, Perry GS, Presley-Cantrell L, Croft JB. Prevalence of insufficient, borderline, and optimal hours of sleep among high school students – United States, 2007. J Adolesc Health 2010;46:399-401.

(7)    Basch CE, Basch CH, Ruggles KV, Rajan S. Prevalence of sleep duration on an average school night among 4 nationally representative successive samples of American high school students, 2007-2013. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:E216.

(8)    Garmy P, Ward TM. Sleep Habits and Nighttime Texting Among Adolescents. J Sch Nurs 2017;1059840517704964.

(9)    Reid Chassiakos YL, Radesky J, Christakis D, Moreno MA, Cross C. Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Pediatrics 2016;138.

(10)    Harbard E, Allen NB, Trinder J, Bei B. What’s Keeping Teenagers Up? Prebedtime Behaviors and Actigraphy-Assessed Sleep Over School and Vacation. J Adolesc Health 2016;58:426-432.

(11)    Short MA, Gradisar M, Wright H, Lack LC, Dohnt H, Carskadon MA. Time for bed: parent-set bedtimes associated with improved sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents. Sleep 2011;34:797-800.

Updated Sept.16, 2020

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.