New research: Is night-time phone use important for young people’s friendships and the development of adolescent brains?

New research by the University of Glasgow has highlighted young people’s ability to disengage from social media before bed. 
 
Index of Nighttime Offline Distress, or iNOD, is the latest research output from the #sleepyteens research group at the University of Glasgow’s School of Psychology, who explore how young people’s screen use interacts with their ability to rest at night.  

Between September 2018 and March 2019, researchers used an online survey to gather data from 3,008 young people in Scotland aged between 10 and 18 about their use of social media at night. 
 
Dr Holly Scott, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow’s School of Psychology, is the paper’s lead author. Dr Scott said: “It’s not unusual to hear parents and teachers expressing concern about the amount of time that young people spend on their mobile phones, sometimes even using pathologising words like ‘addiction’ to describe their behaviour. 


 “However, that concern overlooks how important friendships are to the development of adolescent brains. As young people move away from their families and begin to strike out on their own, staying in touch with friends becomes more important, as does maintaining a feeling of connection – no-one wants to feel they’re missing out on new developments. Phones and social media give them an unprecedented ability to extend the feeling of face-to-face connection. 
 
“In developing iNOD, we set out to create a measurement system which was built from the ground up to reflect the real-life experiences and opinions of modern young people. The aim is to get a truer sense of the trade-offs young people make between social connections and night-time social media use, and to draw a clearer demarcation of the points where it can begin to impact on young people’s sleep.” 
 
The researchers asked them to answer a series of questions about their social media habits and quality of sleep. The questions covered topics including respondents’ fear of missing out on social interactions on social media, and their emotional connection to their preferred social platforms. They were also asked about how long they spent on social media in bed, how long it took them to attempt sleep after putting their phones down, and their overall quality of sleep. 
 
The responses offered a number of fresh insights into young people’s feelings on social media and sleep. While a considerable proportion of respondents claimed not to have difficulties in disengaging from social media, the responses also showed that extended wakefulness in bed before attempts to sleep was a typical experience for many. Those young people who did spend longer than they intended on social media at bedtime were also more likely to report delayed sleep onset, short duration and poor sleep quality.  
 
The research can be read here:  

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945721001453?via%3Dihub.

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