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Children's Lack Of Sleep 'More Harmful Than Social Media Use'

In the ongoing debate about kids and the affects social media has on them, there is something adults may not be thinking about. Researchers say that we should definitely be looking at social media use and how it relates to kids and their mental health. But they say we should also be looking at how much their sleeping.

“While we obsess a lot about social media, how much do we obsess about how much our young people sleep? Not very much – but it is a more important factor, actually, in determining their mental health,” says co-author of the study, Professor Russell Viner of the UCL Great Ormond Street institute of children's health.

One of the ways parents can help their kids? According to the team, not allowing your teen to have their phone in their bedroom is the best way. Of course, that's easier said than done. But now there are apps that you can install to limit their time on social media by using a timer, so it might be worth looking into. They also recommend teens get up to 10 hours of sleep a night, which isn't always easy to enforce. Especially if they have afterschool commitments like sports, rehearsals, or clubs. And even more so if they have a job.

Back in 2015, a study from Glasgow University questioned more than 460 students about their nighttime social media use. What the study found was social media use does have an affect on sleep. But it really affects those who use it at night the most. However, they're unclear if it's social media negatively affects sleep, or if kids are turning to social media when they can't sleep.

“Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this," says Dr. Heather Cleland Woods, author of the study. She adds, “While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected. This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.”

Research about how social media affects kids varies wildly. There are studies that claim social media use on apps like Twitter and Snapchat have a negative impact of kids' mental health. But then other research shows that social media is a good thing because it offers kids, especially those dealing with private things, a sense of community.

The more recent study surveyed kids from 886 English schools ages 13-14 over several years. It took data from surveys about how often the kids used Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. They found that kids who had high scores of psychological distress were the ones checking social media multiple times a day.

“Parents and others need to know what their young people’s social environment is online as much as they do in the real world,” says co-author of the study, Dr. Dasha Nicolls of Imperial College London.

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