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Kids Are Being Kept Awake by Their Phones Even When They’re Not Using Them

2 minute read

Cell phones, tablets and computers are keeping children and teenagers awake at night—even when they’re not being used, new research has found.

The paper, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, found that media devices are contributing to reduced sleep quality and quantity, as well as trouble staying awake the next day. According to the study, 72% of all children and 89% of adolescents have at least one device in their sleep environment, with most of them used near bedtime.

After analyzing hundreds of relevant studies of children and teens aged 6-19, the researchers, led by Dr. Ben Carter, a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London, found a “strong and consistent association” between the use of technology at bedtime and poor sleeping.

Carter and his colleagues also found that such devices adversely affect sleep even when they are not being used, as their content can be psychologically stimulating and the light they emit can affect the body’s natural timing and alertness.

The harmful association between screen-based devices and children’s and adolescents’ sleep is “a major public health concern,” the paper concludes. “It is imperative that teachers, health care professionals, parents, and children are educated about the damaging influence of device use on sleep.”

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Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com