Adolescent Sleep and Media Use

Have you noticed your child spending more and more time using various forms of media? The TV, computer, mobile phone, video games, and/or social media apps? If so, you’re not alone.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that overall media use among adolescents has grown over the past 10 years, especially with increased mobile phone availability and use.1

Despite AAP recommendations that parents place consistent limits on hours of media use per day among children and adolescents, 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.3

There may be good reason for this high level of media exposure. In addition to the entertainment value that media may provide, media can also 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.1

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 adolescents do not obtain the 8-10 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

So what can parents do to limit the impact of media use on their child’s sleep? There are several ways to focus on encouraging healthy media use and healthy sleep habits in your family:

Create, follow, and revise a Family Media Use Plan to address the type and amount of media use appropriate for your child. (
• Two key components of a Family Media Use 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 currently 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! Store your mobile phone outside of your bedroom; limit time using media devices; increase time spent on physical activity; and demonstrate healthy sleep habits.


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.