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Feb 02, 2015 02:15 PM EST

Smartphones May Increase Risk of Sleep Problems, Depressive Symptoms in Teens

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Smartphones are changing teenager's digital media use patterns and affecting their sleep, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Basel found that teenagers' digital media use during the night is associated with an increased risk of sleep problems and depressive symptoms. Those who own smartphones are spending more time online, especially during the night.

While introduced only around 2007, most teenagers nowadays own smartphones. Due to wireless internet connections and cheap flat rates, teenagers with smartphones spend more time online and communicate with their peers for less money -- for example via WhatsApp -- which has changed their digital media use pattern profoundly.

For the study, researchers examined differences in digital media use between teenagers with smartphones and their peers with conventional mobile phones using data from more than 300 teenagers.

They found that during weekdays teenagers with smartphones spent more time on the internet than their peers with conventional mobile phones; on average two hours compared to one hour. In addition, they wrote more text messages daily; on average 85 messages compared to seven messages.

A particularly noticeable difference was found for the time when the teenagers were in their beds at night: Only 17 percent of smartphone owners switched their devices off or put them on silent during the night compared to 47 percent of the teenagers with conventional mobile phones.

Moreover, teenagers with smartphones indicated to watch videos, to be online, and to text with friends more often during the night than their counterparts with conventional mobile phones. Most importantly, teenagers who used digital media at night had an increased risk for poor sleep and depressive symptoms.

Because of this, experts recommend that teenagers who suffer from sleep disorders or severe daytime tiredness to switch their digital media devices off at least one hour before bedtime.

The findings are detailed in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

© 2017 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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