MONDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Staying up late to play video
games, surf the Internet and send phone text messages may lead to
learning problems, mood swings, anxiety and depression in children,
a pilot study suggests.
The research, conducted at the Sleep Disorders Center at JFK
Medical Center in Edison, N.J., found that children who snuck time
on their cell phones, computers and other electronic devices after
supposedly going to sleep had a greater chance of sleep disorders
that cause other difficulties.
"These activities are not sleep-promoting, like reading a novel or listening to music. They stimulate the brain and depress normal sleep cycles," said study author Dr. Peter G. Polos.
His team was scheduled to present the findings Monday at the
American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting in
The study was based on a survey of 40 boys and girls with an
average age of 14. The researchers focused on their activities
after they had gone into their bedroom for the night and were
supposed to be sleeping.
Participants reported an average of 34 texts per night after
bedtime, and an average of 3,400 night-time texts per month. These
texts occurred from 10 minutes to four hours after going to bed.
The average participant was awoken once a night by a text.
Girls were more "text happy," while boys were more likely to
stay awake playing video games, said Polos, a physician at the
hospital and a clinical instructor at its Sleep Disorders Center.
All of the participants had gone to the center for help with sleep
The research found correlations between late-night electronic
media use and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mood
swings, anxiety, depression and poor cognitive functioning
(thinking skills) during the day.
About half of the parents of study participants didn't know what
the kids were up to, said Polos. The others knew, but had a
"They [parents] thought, 'This is the world we live in, what can you do?'" said Polos. But parents need to monitor electronic media use, he said, because "at the end of the day, the parent is still the parent, the child is still the child."
Polos said doctors need to start asking children and teens
routinely about night-time media use and talk to the child, along
with the parents, about the negative consequences of poor
Calling America a "sleep-deprived culture," Polos noted that
teens get little enough sleep "with sports, homework and getting up
early for school." Late-night media use "really isn't helping," he
Expert Richard Gallagher said another reason parents need to
monitor media use is to know what is going on in their children's
"Parents need to take the perspective of what their own lives were like growing up," said Gallagher, director of the Parenting Institute at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Parents used to know who their children were talking to on the
phone or hanging out with because it was all done in the real world
when families typically had one or two phones, he noted.
"Parents knew if someone came to the door to see their daughter or son," said Gallagher, an associate professor of adolescent psychiatry at New York University, adding that "children should have some privacy, but parents need to make it more comparable to when they were growing up."
Parents need to set rules such as no computers in the child's
bedroom, no phone calls during mealtimes, and establish a phone use
"Then have the kids turn over the phones," said Gallagher.
Gallagher also noted that the effect of media can be good for
some children who have "more contact with others than they might
normally have had" as a result. But parents also need to be aware
that all the messages sent back and forth "aren't necessarily
friendly, or about things they want their kids to constantly think
about," he said.
Because many kids are messaging or texting throughout the day,
"there is no break from any kind of drama," or peer-related
problems their children might be having, said Gallagher.
Both experts said the long-term effects of children's constant
use of technology is unknown and needs more study. Also, they both
emphasized the need for parents to talk with their children, and
Citing the example of a parent who resorted to turning off the
router at night, Polos said it's important to get a jump on things
before it becomes a big problem.
"By then, the horse is out of the barn," said Polos, when parents delay getting involved.
For more on teens and texting, go to the
Pew Research Center.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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