Technology and Adolescents: To Worry or Not to Worry?

By Maria Jose Correa and Daniela Hidalgo for HS Language and Learning Center

As teachers, we have first-hand experience on students’ poor performance due to lack of sleep. As Literacy Assistants for the High School Language and Learning Center, we work with a variety of students on a daily basis. One common pattern that has come to our attention is the tiredness of the majority of our students, regardless the time of the day. When we approach and ask them about the reasons, 90% of the times they respond unanimously: “I couldn’t sleep. I stayed on my phone until late”. Nowadays, we witness how high school students’ performance has deteriorated due to poor habits. We recognize that technology has become part of our routines, since the alarm goes off in the morning until that last “like” on Instagram; we are attached to our phones 24 hours. This phenomenon even has a name for teenagers: “Vamping”.

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Many students that “vamp” present the same problems: concentration and focus difficulties, reduced academic performance, unwillingness to participate in sport activities, and low self esteem.

 

But, why is “vamping” a worrisome issue? Well, these habits are interrupting our students learning processes and impacting them severely in their overall performance and ability to learn. We are aware of how creating healthy sleeping habits benefit our brains and bodies. We also know how vulnerable the teenage brain is during this stage of development, so maintaining bad habits can have long-term consequences.  

As parents and educators, we are responsible for their well-being, so we need to understand the importance of creating awareness about the unrestricted use of devices. As educators, we also need to be aware of our responsibility inside the classroom, by promoting healthy study habits and responsible use of technology. This should be a team effort among all, parents, teachers, administrators, and students!

We are sharing some information on the consequences of the use of devices without parental control.

  • Deteriorate school performance

Many students that “vamp” present the same problems: concentration and focus difficulties, moodiness and aggressive behavior, reduced academic performance, lack of enthusiasm, unwillingness to participate in sport activities, and low self esteem.

  • Causes Addictive Behaviors

Students express that they use their devices mainly for social media and texting at night before they go to  sleep. One of the reasons is the need for validation and recognition from their peers, whether it’s “likes”, “follows” or smile emojis. Most teenagers text and post at late hours at night.

Research has shown that social media is addictive and is even compared to addictions such as smoking. If we don’t realize the negative effects this addiction can have on teenagers, we are in a way accepting it. It is difficult for everyone to be separated from their phone, it creates anxiety.

  • Less sleep weakens immune system

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “for most adolescents, nine hours of sleep is ideal”. Unfortunately, less than 9 percent of teens get enough sleep, being the unrestricted use of technology before they go to sleep one of the main factors for this. Some research has found a link between sleep deprivation and teenage depression and anxiety. Furthermore, lack of rest and sleep can lead to accidents and injuries.

Also, poor sleep can disrupt the immune system, so they can be sick more often.  This can lead students to miss school and therefore have a negative impact on their overall performance.  

Recommendations to improve sleeping habits

When trying to make plans with students in order to improve their performance, we recommend that they sleep for nine hours and avoid devices before bedtime.  

Some studies have found that blue light from devices (computers, telephones, tv,  e-readers, etc) decrease the amount of melatonin that the brain releases, making it harder to fall asleep.  

If you are aware that your child is not getting enough hours of sleep, you might want to start talking to them about their sleeping habits.

By establishing rules about the usage of devices, we can help them enter a healthier routine.

Some examples are:

  • Set up times for using devices
  • Be a good role model, maintaining healthy sleep habits
  • Create technology-free spaces around the house , no devices in the bedrooms
  • Encouraging relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
  • Promote reading a book before bed  
  • Suggest that they practice a sport or play an instrument
  • Use apps that are available for parental control, they help us keep track of what the do while online and also give us tools to control the amount of time they use it.  Some common ones are: the screen time on Apple devices, Google family link for parents, Life360, Parental control smart App, etc.

We can all benefit from adequate sleep habits, so as the adults we need to help students understand the negative effects for them both in the short and long term.

Sources:

https://www.tuck.com/how-does-technology-affect-sleep/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160126162227.htm

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264711912_Adolescent_Sleep_and_Cellular_Phone_Use_Recent_Trends_and_Implications_for_Research

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201804/is-your-teen-vamping-instead-sleeping

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed

 

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