Social media has many benefits, but there are certainly some side effects that are causing problems, especially for teenagers.
A recent study by researchers from the Wales Institute for Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) found that 1 in 5 young people, between the ages of 12 and 15 wake up in the middle of the night to check their social media accounts.
They surveyed more than 900 students about their sleeping habits, school life, and general wellness. What they found was that students who woke in the night to check social media were three times more likely to be tired at school the next day. Those students who woke up each night or even just a few nights a week were not only more tired at school, but also less happy with their lives overall.
“Our research shows that a small but significant number of children say that they often go to school feeling tired,” said study author Professor Sally Power, “and these are the same young people who also have the lowest levels of well-being.”
While the study does support concerns over nighttime use of social media, there are many reasons that a student might be tired all day. Additional studies of this type will be needed to determine if there really is a level of causation here, but it does stand to reason that social media use could negatively impact students’ sleep schedules.
It could even turn out that social media isn’t the core problem, but simply a symptom of something else such as cyberbullying. According to a 2016 study by Cyberbullying.org, approximately 34 percent of middle and high school students reported being cyberbullied. Surprisingly, about 12 percent of students admitted to being perpetrators of cyberbullying. When students are up in the middle of the night, they may simply be trying to deal with being bullied online and through social media.
Another factor is that students may be mirroring their parents’ use of social media and devices. Adults, too, need to learn to put down their phones at night. According to a 2015 survey done by Bank of America, 71 percent of adults say they usually sleep with or next to their phones. Three percent even say they sleep with their device in hand.
To put it simply, teenagers need to learn from adults how to deal with technology. If you have a teenager who stays up at night with their phone, it’s a good idea to ask whether they’re being bullied. If possible, explain why restful sleep is so important—that’s going to be easier than trying to prevent youth from accessing their devices in the middle of the night.