Smartphone use, sleep and your child

Yes, we know that Smartphone usage may cause sleep deprivation among adults. But, what about the long term impact in kids and young adults attending college or vocational schools?
Too much screen time alters teen brain chemistry and structure

The Douglas Research Center, affiliated with McGill University reports that sleep deprivation in kids are expressed as “hyperactivity, crankiness, impulsiveness, and a short attention span.”

It has been maintained that eight hours of sleep has beneficial effects on physical bodies, psychological well-being as well as our academic potential. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, negatively impacts our attitudes, hinders our decision-making ability, all shortens our attention span. All of which are necessary for academic success in school and the university.

Harvard University, Division of Sleep Medicine has touted the many prominent theories to explain the benefits of sleep which include:

  • Inactivity Theory suggests that sleep serves as an adaptive mechanism to keep organisms safe when they are at their most vulnerable state, sleep.
  • Energy Conservation Theory “is to reduce an individual’s energy demand and expenditure during part of the day or night, especially at times when it is least efficient to search for food.”
  • Restorative Theory, concerns the widely held belief that sleep serves as a time of rejuvenation, whereby the cells grow and are repaired. This theory is supported by a body of evidence showing that ” many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.
  • Brain Plasticity Theory “serves to explain that brain size, cognitive abilities, and intellectually functioning can change over time. They are not static as traditionally thought. Rather, sleeps aids the “ability to learn and perform a variety of tasks.”

But getting back to your child. As a school psychologist, I see every day how the negative effects of sleep deprivation are manifest in low performance on IQ tests, standardized tests of academic abilities, and tests to determine level of mastery. As a parent, I am sure you noticed to. Did you know that Smartphone usage among kids can actually lead to “insomnia, poor sleep quality, and depressive symptoms among adolescents?” That’s what researchers at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society found.

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So to paraphrase… not only does lack of sleep disrupt regenerative cell processes, negatively effect brain elasticity vital for higher cognitive functioning; it also can cause depressive symptoms such as: an empty mood, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, changes in appetite, headaches and irritability.

Adding insult to injury, the Douglas Research Center cited another study showing that reduced sleep “may disrupt the ability of students to concentrate for long periods of time, and remember what they learn in class.” Children with inadequate sleep, were “more likely to struggle with verbal creativity, problem solving, inhibiting their behaviour, and generally score lower on IQ tests according to current leading research.” This is what many school psychologists find on a daily basis.

They added further, “up to 24% of teenage students have reported that their grades dropped because of sleepiness.” In addition, a study has shown that students with average to below average (C, D, or F’s) grades averaged 25 to 30 minutes less sleep per weeknight than their classmates who achieved above average grades (A’s or B’s). As parents, what can we do. See below for suggestions. If you have others, please add them in the comment section.


  • Sit down and hold family discussions about Smartphone usage
  • Use rules to limit Smartphone time
  • Use house rules to enforce and reward set bedtime routines
  • Use apps to set Smartphone device timers and limits

I hope this has been helpful! Please share.

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