According to new research, primary school children lose up to the equivalent of a full night’s sleep a week, with bedtime delayed by social media use.
Instead of receiving NHS recommended nine to 12 hours each night, children aged 10 to 11 sleep on average only 8.7 hours, according to a small study examining social media use and sleep quality. .
The study found that children who used social media more were more likely to report higher levels of Fomo (fear of getting lost), anxiety and worse sleep.
According to the research, conducted when schools began to reopen after the Covid lockdown, around 69.6 percent of children reported spending more than four hours a day on social media.
Meanwhile, 66.1% said they used it in the two hours before bed and 12.5% said they used it in the middle of the night or when they should have slept.
The researchers say that while there is no easy solution to the problem, parents and guardians should lead by example and try to limit the time they spend on social media.
The vast majority (89.3%) of the 60 Leicester schoolchildren involved in the study said they used a mobile phone, 55.4% said they used a tablet, 23.2% said they used a computer, and the 9% said they use a smartwatch.
Experts suggest that not getting enough sleep is linked to poor school performance and increased risk behavior.
Sleep is also when growth hormone is released, suggesting that poor sleep may be affecting this.
The children were asked questions such as how disconnected they felt from their friends when they weren’t connected to social media and how worried they were about school work, as well as how many alarms they needed to wake up.
The children were asked what time they went to bed, what time they fell asleep, and what time they woke up to assess sleep quality.
The more time they spend on social media, the worse their sleep quality, the researchers say.
The researchers also looked at the types of social media they were using and found that TikTok was the most popular with 89.2%, around 83.9% said they use Snapchat, 87.5% said they used Snapchat. used YouTube and 57.1% used Instagram.
Perhaps indicating a generational difference, only 1.8% reported using Facebook, while Reddit and Twitter were two other apps they used.
Surprisingly, most apps require users to be at least 13 years old.
Dr John Shaw, a lecturer at De Montfort University (DMU) in the division of psychology, said the findings are consistent with other research.
He added that the findings suggest that primary school children sleep less and that social media is playing a role.
Speaking at the British Science Festival, hosted by the DMU in Leicester, Dr Shaw said: “This is pretty terrifying when you think about the level of involvement they are having.”
When asked what her concerns were, she added: “I guess it’s that ripple effect on sleep and what it means for children in terms of cognitive development and really social development too, because if they are always online, what does that mean? does it mean to them with their in-person socialization?
“Because if you constantly worry about what’s going on online and you’re not there, that will have effects, but with the Fomo and anxiety, we’ve seen kids who are on social media the most have increased anxiety levels, and this it’s just a spiral. “
When asked how poor sleep can affect children, Dr. Shaw said, “It has an impact on their cognitive and biological development.
“When they sleep it is very important for emotion processing and memory consolidation, creativity and problem solving.
“When you don’t get enough sleep, those processes don’t have a chance to happen.
“When it comes to biological processes during sleep, when we enter slow wave sleep, our body rests, recovers, releases growth hormone.
“They are still growing, which is why young people tend to sleep more than adults because they are going through biological changes.”
The researchers say the study, conducted with PhD student Sorcha Newby and currently under peer review, is the first to examine the role of social media use and sleep quality in preteens.