Though they only became ubiquitous around 2007, most teenagers nowadays own smart phones. Due to wireless Internet connections and cheap data rates, teenagers with smart phones 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.
A study by the University of Basel examined differences in digital media use between teenagers with smar tphones and their peers with conventional mobile phones. 162 female and 200 male students from Northwestern Switzerland aged 12 to 17 participated in the study.
The results show that during weekdays teenagers with smart phones 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.
Sleep disorders and depressive symptoms
A particularly noticeable difference was found for the time when the teenagers were in their beds at night: Only 17% of smart phone owners switched their devices off or put them on silent during the night compared to 47% of the teenagers with conventional mobile phones. Moreover, teenagers with smart phones 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. Experts thus 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.
Citation: emola, S., Perkinson-Gloor, N., Brand, S., Dewald-Kaufmann, J.,&Grob, A. (2015). Adolescents' electronic media use at night, sleep disturbance, and depressive symptoms in the smartphone age. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44, 405–418. DOI: 10.1007/s10964-014-0176-x