Guest Post – Potential Effects of Smartphone Overuse Syndrome In Teenagers

Guest Post – Potential Effects of Smartphone Overuse Syndrome In Teenagers

Are you or your teenagers addicted to your smartphone?  Do you argue about the presence of phones at mealtimes?  Do your youngsters sleep with their phones in their room?  A ubiquitous accessory nowadays, it is so easy to fall into the trap of constantly checking our phones for news and messages at all times of day and night.  This obsession, however, to always have our phone nearby is reaching epidemic proportions among our youngsters in particular and seriously affecting their mental health.

Dr Martin  Lee is a Consultant Rheumatologist and Associate Senior Clinical Lecturer currently working for Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Hospitals and Newcastle University. He has a specialist interest in Young Adult and Adolescent care and created the concept of No Phone Zone in 2016 based on his reflections that the overuse of smartphones (particularly at bedtime and during the night) was having negative effects on his patients’ sleep hygiene, mental and physical wellbeing, interpersonal relationships, productivity and online safety.

Here Martin shares his thoughts and findings - it is serious food for thought as we move further into an age of increased smartphone usage.

The Importance of Sleep Hygiene and the Potential Effects Of Smartphone Overuse Syndrome (SOS) In Teenagers

Smartphones have fundamentally changed how we live and their functionality has had many positive impacts on our lives. The invention and rapid evolution of smartphones now means that access to the internet, social media sites and a multitude of applications is rarely more than an arm’s length away, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, are there potential downsides to this technology that could be having a negative impact within our homes and on our lives?

Smartphone Overuse Syndrome (SOS)?

As a consultant physician working in the UK with an interest in adolescent and young adult care, I witness first hand potential negative consequences of mobile phone technology almost on a day-to-day basis. I believe that smartphone overuse has the potential to hinder relationships within our families and also have a negative effect on our own, and our children’s, sleep patterns and mental health.

Teenagers are frequently referred to my clinic complaining of chronic fatigue, daytime sleepiness, pain and headaches. These symptoms are frequently accompanied by symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, low mood and feelings of anxiety. When taking a history from these teenagers, a key and recurrent theme is frequent access to the internet and social media, often using smartphone technology and often at night.

Trends in smartphone use in Teenagers (parents look away now!):

Over the past decade there has been a huge increase in electronic media use in teenagers. In 2010 a survey of over 2,000 American youths aged 8 to 18 found that they spent an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media.

With the increased availability (and reduced costs) of smartphone technology, there has been a rapid increase in both smartphone ownership and smartphone use among teenagers. A recent study found that American college students spent nearly 9 hours a day on their mobile phones!

In 2016, Deloitte published its UK mobile consumer survey. Key findings of this report include the fact that about 91% of 18-44 year olds in the UK own a smartphone. Nighttime smartphone usage was particularly high in the teenage population and about half of all 18-24 year olds check their phone in the middle of the night.

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) in partnership with Digital Awareness UK (DAUK) recently conducted a published a survey of 2,750 pupils aged 11-18, looking into teenage use of mobile devices overnight and the impact this is having on their health and well-being. The survey revealed that almost half (45%) of teenagers checked their mobile devices during the night. Of these teenagers, 23% checked their mobile device more than 10 times per night. Other findings of the survey included the facts that 68% of teenagers said that using their mobile devices at night affected their schoolwork.

Smartphone use and sleep:

Alongside increases in smartphone ownership and use in teenagers, recent data also suggests a shift towards poorer sleep patterns over the past decades. These changes include going to bed later, taking longer to fall asleep, shorter sleep duration, poorer sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness. Several other studies have demonstrated a relationship between mobile phone use at night and shorter sleep duration or increased daytime sleepiness. There are 4 key reasons why smartphone use in evenings and at bedtime could potentially have a negative impact on sleep quantity and quality.

  1. Sleep stealing (sleep can potentially be displaced by smartphone use at night leaving less time for sleep).
  2. Smartphone use at bedtime can lead to increased mental, emotional or physiological arousal and therefore interfere with time to onset of sleep.
  3. Light emission from smartphones that use LED technology (‘blue-range’ light) may disrupt our sleep by interfering with our body’s melatonin secretion and its in-built 24-hour clock.
  4. Smartphones left switched on at night can disturb sleep and reduce the quantity and quality of deep or ‘restorative’ sleep.

Smartphone use and mental health disorders in teenagers:

It is well known that there is an association between depression and sleep disturbance but studies have also found that sleep disturbance can lead to depression in teenagers. One study of over 17,000 adolescents published in 2012 reported an association between nighttime mobile phone use and poor mental health, suicidal feelings and self-harm. A further study of over 300 teenagers published in 2015 found that smartphone use in bed before sleep was related to shorter sleep duration and higher levels of depressive symptoms.

Conclusions:

There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that teenagers are using smartphones more and more and that smartphone use at night can have a negative affect on sleep and mental health. I believe teenagers and their families should be educated about sleep hygiene and the potential effects of smartphone use at bedtime and at night. This education should include advice about setting limits on smartphone use or introducing phone free areas of the home or times of the day.

Martin's passion and commitment for pioneering a change in the way families manage their smartphone usage is heartfelt.  He truly wants to make a difference.

If Martin has forced you to question your habits and those of your youngsters as he did me then you can find out more information at  www.nophonezone.co.uk and for those of you who would like to take steps towards creating phone free zones in your own home, Martin is offering a discount on his fun nophonezone bags with the code MOTHEROFTEENAGERS.

It is an unspoken rule in our house that phones are banned at mealtimes as this is when we come together as a family.  Equally iPhones and iPads are left in our home office over night, but for an 18 year old sometimes the temptation can be too great to have it close by. Interestingly, however, my son has been strict with himself during the exam period and of his own volition has been switching off his devices an hour before going to bed.

The result? Well no teenager likes to admit their parents know best but he has delighted in the fact that he is sleeping better, waking earlier and is less lethargic.   Whether he continues it full-time beyond the exams remains to be seen but for now we are all enjoying reaping the benefits.

Are you worried about your tweens or teens and their smartphone usage?  Do you have any rules in your home regarding smartphone usage? Did you find Martin's piece helpful?  I would love to hear your views.

 

 

 

One Messy Mama  Motherhood: The Real Deal diaryofanimperfectmum  The Pramshed

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43 Comments

  1. June 23, 2017 / 8:24 pm

    she’s better now, but when ours first got her phone is was a problem. She had it taken away several times for various reasons and would then buy old phones at school to hide in her room. It was a nightmare for a while #teentweensbeyond
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  2. June 23, 2017 / 8:13 am

    What a fascinating read! I have just this week deleted all social media (except Instagram – obviously) off my phone! I just found it too distracting and in all honesty stealing time from my kids. My eldest is almost 8 and most of his friends have Smartphones – NOPE, NOPE, NOPE! I just can’t bring myself to allowing that! We will definitely have a few No Phone Zones once they are teenagers. But for now, as parents, our phones are not allowed at the dinner table. X Thanks for sharing with us at #globalblogging!
    One Messy Mama recently posted…Global Blogging #31My Profile

    • June 23, 2017 / 8:51 am

      That is so bizarre I have done exactly the same, no twitter on my phone otherwise it is 24/7 and I have turned off all Instagram notifications as that was also distracting and am limiting myself to just checking everything twice a day. 8 is young for a smartphone and well done for saying no. Glad you enjoyed the post. #globablblogging

  3. June 22, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    Your post and all of the supporting facts have caused me deep concern! This has got to stop. People need to connect with people, plain and simple, the old fashioned way. TY for this! #coolmumclub xoxo

    • June 22, 2017 / 9:54 pm

      Yes there is a definitely a need for going back to basics and communicating in person and not with a screen. #coolmumclub

  4. June 22, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    Having read this I think I might stop beating myself up about our teens and their phones. They are absolutely not allowed at the table at meal times, and absolutely not allowed in their bedrooms at night. Ideally I’d like them off them an hour before bedtime but they’d be the only kids having that forced upon them, which feels a bit mean. Our kids also still (at 15 & 17) have bedtimes, unlike many of our friends’ kids who go to bed whenever they feel like and take their phones with them! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 9:53 pm

      Oh a woman after my own heart. My son has broken the night time rule a few times but has been converted back now he has noticed a difference in his sleep. Mine have bed times too! I have to confess to being a Gina Ford mum so mine have always had a strict bedtime routine. We all need our own time and as they get older I have found it is even more necessary or we spend 24/7 together and love them as I do that is not for me. However old they are they need a routine. #TweensTeensBeyond

  5. June 22, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Brilliant post! It’s so good to have a professionals point of
    View. We have screen free time after dinner and my tween is not allowed to have his phone in his bedroom. But i have caught him sneaking it in. I’m glad to know I’m doing The right thing 🌟 Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉
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    • June 22, 2017 / 9:50 pm

      Oh they are so crafty. My youngest is the worst. She will do everything she can to trick me but it rarely works. I insist they are all in the home office before they go to bed and if not…well I am mad. #ablogginggoodtime

  6. June 22, 2017 / 4:05 pm

    This rings so true in my almost 13 year old niece. The phone is constantly on, always on it, at dinner, during family gatherings, even when she is with her friends. We see less of her now and when we do, she does not interact with us. She has already had some dodgy bloke sexting her a few years ago and also some over misuse issues this year at school where the police had to be involved. She was even diagnosed with repetative strain from always being on it – yet she has no boundaries, Im definatly sharing this with the SIL!!

    • June 22, 2017 / 9:56 pm

      Oh Heidi that sounds worrying and must be so tough for you on the outside watching it all unfold. It is hard sometimes to step in when it is not your child. Good luck, I am sure they will thank you in the long run.

  7. June 22, 2017 / 1:08 pm

    This is so important.I’m so stringent about no phones at mealtimes but I definitely need to have screens off earlier I think. Lots to think about , fab post very informative #tweensteensbeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      I think it is the night time thing that everyone finds tough but it is the most important. I so understand that it hard for them to resist the urge to take their phones to bed but it does make a difference. Glad you enjoyed the post. #TweensTeensBeyond

  8. June 21, 2017 / 11:06 pm

    This is such an important post and Martin’s work is inspiring and hopefully the way of the future to try to keep the screen addiction for our youth under control. Mental health in children is on the increase and overuse of technology has so much to do with it. My 10 year old daughter has M.E. and has been off school for a year – her ability to sleep has been effected hugely and with no energy to do anything during the day she was using the screen far too much. She has been effected by depression too and her consultant said that all screens must be off by 6pm (for both children and adults) as it effects our levels of melatonin, and therefore our ability to sleep well. I can only imagine how attached teens get to their phones – I’m bad enough at wanting to check mine, so for a teen with so many social media channels going on, it must be so addictive. Sounds like you’ve laid down very sensible measures during exam time and I totally agree with no screens at mealtimes. I have to remind myself to set a good example as often we have no screen days then the kids catch me checking my phone, and they quite rightly tell me off. Great post #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 11:55 am

      Susie thank you so much for your comments and for sharing your daughter’s experience. That sounds a really tough scenario for someone so young. We all know how awful we feel if we don’t sleep and the evidence supporting the link between lack of sleep or quality sleep and screen time is strong. It is fantastic that people like Martin are trying to make a difference and effect a change in our habits and behaviour. We have all become so attached to our phones that like you say it is almost second nature when we have a quiet moment to pick up our phone and see what is going on. Hopefully as with all other health information campaigns we will start to see a difference soon but obviously we need to lead by example. #TweensTeensBeyond

  9. June 21, 2017 / 9:13 pm

    This is so important, but not just for our children, but for ourselves too. I know I get consumed in checking my phone in bed when the lights are out. What was going to be a quick browse on Instagram, turns out to be 30 odd minutes or longer.
    #TweensTeensBeyond

    • June 22, 2017 / 11:58 am

      Oh Nadia I know exactly what you mean. Instagram in particular is addictive, there never seems to be an end to the posts and I often find myself saying just one more post….At 50 though this has all come to me late and it is scary to think what our youngsters will be like if they continue these habits for the next few decades. #TweensTeensBeyond

  10. June 21, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    I think it’s hard for parents to say ‘No phones overnight’ if, like me, you take your phone with you yourself! I got into the habit when my youngest was away at uni, and I’ve kept it up in case my elderly parents have an emergency over-night. I do TRY to not use it though for the last hour before sleeping.

    • June 22, 2017 / 12:00 pm

      There have to be some exceptions to the rule. I will always have mine nearby if my eldest has gone out for the night in case something terrible happens and he needs to get hold of me, unfortunately in London that is always a possibility. I do however notice a difference in my sleep. The scary thing is the long term impact of this behaviour on our youngsters. #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. June 21, 2017 / 6:44 pm

    Oh my word! I hadn’t even considered that my teen might be checking her phone i the middle of the night – I’m going to be so cross if she does! I kinda knew about all this stuff and I hate the fact my hubby uses his in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep. Grrr, smart phones eh – it’s such a love/hate thing for me! Great article. #tweenteenbeyond

    • June 22, 2017 / 12:03 pm

      Oh Alex I am sure she is not. There has to be an element of trust doesn’t there? My eldest is guilty of taking his phone to bed sometimes to keep abreast of things but certainly since being strict with himself during exams he has noticed a big difference so I hope he won’t be tempted to return to his old ways. #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. June 21, 2017 / 3:40 pm

    This is fascinating. I can really see how they can disturb sleep and I know myself how hard it can be to drop off when you have just been on your phone. I’m on mine so often that I feel a bit cheeky telling mine to get off their’s but i do try! It’s like a big social experiment and we don’t yet know the full health implications of phone use. Good to see a medical perspective. xx
    Sharon Parry recently posted…Tweens, Teens and Beyond Linky #13My Profile

    • June 21, 2017 / 4:57 pm

      I know me too actually, Instagram is the worst. I got into a real habit of going through it in bed which is not conducive to a good night’s sleep at all. My husband is constantly reminding me of my own rules! #TweensTeensBeyond

  13. June 21, 2017 / 1:10 pm

    This is one thing that deeply concerns me about tweens and teens. This is the age they should be using to build connections, face to face ones, and developing social skills. Terrifying to see how the internet has affected sleep patterns in this age group. I’m hoping more parents can step in and help break them of this habit. Thank you for hosting such a necessary post!

    Thank you so much for hosting the linky yet again.

    #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      There is certainly a big role for the parents here in discouraging this kind of behaviour among our tweens and teens, but it is harder as they get older to exercise that control and they need to be aware of the impact themselves and make an effort to change of their own volition. Good point on the social skills too, it is so easy to forget what it is like to live and communicate in the “real” world. #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. June 21, 2017 / 9:41 am

    I knew it!!!
    So glad I now have a professional source to back me up!!! I can say from personal experience that when I have reached for my iPhone before bed it’s “See Ya Never Sleep” because I feel more awake than ever!!! No matter if I’m on Facebook or reading a book on my Kindle app! Not to mention my teenager who stays up all night (she’s on summer break now)!!!
    Great post!!!
    #globalblogging

    • June 22, 2017 / 12:08 pm

      Yes I think we are all guilty of reaching for a device before bed and knowing that it is not a good idea. Oh the joys of the long summer break! I am sure some rules will broken in our house too with the exams a long distant memory. #globalblogging

  15. June 20, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Great post. Very eye-opening and factual. Thanks for sharing.
    #globalblogging

    • June 22, 2017 / 12:28 pm

      I am glad you found it interesting. Thanks for commenting. #globalblogging

  16. June 20, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    Great post – and it’s reminded me that I really must buy an alarm clock as I’ve got into the habit of using the alarm on my phone which invariably leads to me checking my phone just before I go to sleep. Planning to discuss this with my teens – thanks. #TweensTeens Beyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 12:14 pm

      Ditto Lynne. That is exactly what I did and am sure that we are not alone. Our phones have so many uses and perform such a valuable role in our lives, it is tough to not use them. #TweensTeensBeyond

  17. June 20, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    I somehow thought this was going to be a humerous post. This is a great and informative post, so thank you. I actually think there are many adults out there that also have many of these symptoms who could learn a lot by reading this post. We try to have some off time here in the oldhouse but it’s v tricky. I found my youngest watching Love Isalnd on his phone last night….I mean that’s bad enough on a bigger screen (although highly addictive!). Thank you again. I will be discussing this with mine tonight! #tweensteensbeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 12:18 pm

      Glad it didn’t disappoint! The general tone of the comments is that we could all learn something from this for sure. That makes me laugh about your son and Love Island. Mine is totally addicted to it. It is his go to programme when he wants some downtime from revising, which drives me insane as he insists on coming down and watching it in the room near me on the big screen and despite my moans and groans I end up finding myself discussing it with him. It is so inane! #TweensTeensBeyond

  18. June 20, 2017 / 1:08 pm

    So true. Of late, I’ve seen my teen spend more time on his smartphone. It’s mostly related to school work. He reads articles and stays in touch with his friends. He is not very active on social media (thankfully!). But yes, I am always checking on him to see that his smartphone use does not increase. And no browsing on the phone at night for him.

    • June 22, 2017 / 12:21 pm

      It is such a central part of theirs and our lives it would be difficult to imagine not being with it and like yours my son uses it to keep in contact with his mates more than being active on social media, that seems to be more my daughter’s territory. Sounds like you have a good balance in your house already.

  19. June 20, 2017 / 12:54 pm

    Thank you! We usually take the tech away at night to prevent temptation. We’ve got a bit slack of late, but this has reminded me I need to start doing it again.
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    • June 22, 2017 / 12:22 pm

      It is tough to keep on top of it all the time and reminders are a good thing. I needed one. Glad you found it useful. #TweensTeensBeyond

  20. June 20, 2017 / 12:01 pm

    This is brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing. I am definitely discussing this further with my teens. We do have no phone times – especially at meal times but also if we are having a film night. I also have to abide by that rule (hmm not so easy!) . The no tablets at bed is the trickiest one for me as they listen to music or finish watching a film after I’ve gone to sleep. I think if we were having issues with sleep then this would be further addressed and we may come back to it at exam time too. Excellent read! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 12:25 pm

      Helen that is the same with my eldest. He will often get into bed with his tablet to watch something and then of course he is receiving all the messages from his friends simultaneously as it is all linked to his phone. He has definitely noticed a difference during the revision period so I hope he can continue it, if not during the holidays at least when he is back into studying mode again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  21. June 20, 2017 / 10:40 am

    I’m so glad to hear this common sense coming out and thank you for writing about it. My husband and I are both very strict with our own mobile phone useage and neither of us keep it on or in the bedroom whilst we sleep. I hope we’re modelling good practice for my daughter who is yet to have a phone. I’ve clicked on your link to Martin’s No Phone Zone page. I hope we can set some sensible boundaries before we get to this point! This was a great post! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • June 22, 2017 / 12:26 pm

      Oh Alisa you definitely sound as if you are on top of this situation already and leading by example which I think seems to be the key for most families, which of course is true of everything we do as parents. #TweensTeensBeyond

  22. June 19, 2017 / 11:04 am

    Really useful post and one that I read with keen interest. My boy is 16 and I’m always trying to convince him of all of the above points. I think it’s so important that they (and us) have down time. Thanks again!
    #Globalblogging

    • June 19, 2017 / 4:33 pm

      Oh I am glad you found it useful Liz. We are all guilty of overusing our electronic devices at some point. My husband is a great one for having his iPad at breakfast under the premise he is downloading his newspaper ready for his tube journey to work and I have to point out that it can download anywhere in the house but not at the table, it is important that we set the right example too. Thanks for dropping by. #TweensTeensBeyond

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