How Smartphones Negatively Impact Teens’ Sleep, Academic Performance, and Mental Health

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Have you ever thought about the consequences of our actions? Whether it be something said or possibly done. Understanding that our actions cause an effect is what allows us to realize the differences in our minds and bodies over time. Let’s talk about technology for example. For years, it has played an important role for everyone around the world, discovering new ways of researching information, impacting the communications industry, promoting businesses, and much more. What people have failed to realize are the effects, both good and bad, that technology has had on individuals, especially our adolescents.

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It is no surprise that our younger generations are more attracted to technology due to their desire to have the most up-to-date electronic devices, often in comparison to their friends. They have shown a strong dependence on electronic devices such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and most notably, smartphones.

According to Jean Twenge, in 2007 the features of electronic devices, specifically cell phones, were innovated and evolved, thus bringing a smartphone to the marketplace, otherwise known today as the iPhone (Twenge). This device was known to be a mini-computer that placed all the accessibility features people had ever dreamed of, right in the palm of their hands, while carrying it around like a regular cell phone. Before this new invention was placed in our hands, the use of a cell phone was limited to texts and calls only. Nowadays, people of all ages, from children to adults, enjoy all the features and accessibility the iPhone, as well as other electronic devices, offer. As time passes by and devices become more evolved, offering increasing accessibility to their users, the demand for electronic devices increases every day. Teenagers in particular are excited about the updated features that can offer new apps, creating group chats, video chatting miles away, etc.

Nowadays, people of all ages, from children to adults, enjoy the features and accessibility that iPhones, as well as other electronic devices, offer. As these devices evolve and provide increased accessibility, the demand for them continues to rise, and people can’t seem to put their phones down. While the evolution of these devices is beneficial to their users, there can be negative effects from using these devices excessively.

After ten years following its advent, Jean Twenge discussed the impact that technology, especially smartphones, has on our teenagers. Twenge pointed out the results of a survey showing that three out of four teenagers own a smartphone. Mentioning this research highlights that the use of smartphones has become indispensable among teenagers, allowing them to substitute traditional forms of entertainment and socializing. Activities such as reading a book, going to the movie theater, walking in the park, and playing sports have become somewhat, if not entirely, obsolete for many of our teenagers. It’s arguable that smartphones have made our lives easier, enhancing communication and information access.

Smartphones have become the center of attention for our teenagers, leading to potential dramatic changes in behavior. Adolescents are most likely to be negatively impacted due to the easy accessibility of these devices. It is easier for them to form an attachment to smartphones, as they are introduced to them at a young age without being informed of the effects they can potentially have on their social, mental, and physical well-being. These negative impacts can include lack of face-to-face social interaction, an increase in mental health issues, and poor academic performance.

Firstly, smartphones have been causing a lack of interest in face-to-face social interactions. This can lead to the deterioration of relationships. Although smartphones offer the ability to keep us in touch with our relatives and friends worldwide, this convenience can also cause detachment in our teenagers’ personal face-to-face interactions. In his article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”, Twenge notes the undeniable comfort that most teenagers feel when using their smartphones, observing that they would rather stay in their bedrooms than interact with people, even their family members. He alleges, “… despite spending far more time under the same roof as their parents, today’s generation is hardly close to their parents” (Twenge). The fact that teenagers are beginning to lose focus on their actual lives is a significant concern for their parents. Jean Twenge adds that the number of teens who get together with their friends has dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015 (Twenge). He points out that teens who have less in-person interaction tend to feel lonelier than those who spend more time with friends.

Secondly, although smartphones have continued to make our lives easier, they contribute to the increase in mental health issues. Their use can become addictive, particularly for teenagers. These devices are negatively impacting our teens’ lives, with many finding it hard to put their phones down. Once a teenager gets into the habit of constantly using their phone, it becomes harder to engage them. Their device addiction can also be disruptive. Adolescents are extremely vulnerable as Arshi states in the article, “7 Harmful Side Effects of Mobile Phones on Teenagers”, “…relying on texting as a primary mode of communication can increase anxiety in teens…” (Arshi). This type of anxiety can be created due to the anticipation of a response. Psychologically speaking, this can potentially lead to depression and suicide among teenagers. According to Twenge, depression and suicide rates have increased since 2011. Supporting this, Candice L. Odgers, in her article, “Smartphones Are Bad for Some Adolescents, Not All”, refers to cases of depressive episodes in more than 4.0% of girls aged 12 to 17 from 2005 to 2014.

From 2005 to 2014, there was a 1.7% increase in certain episodes among our boys. This depression and suicide can be associated with the dependency our adolescents have on social media. Strangers’ opinions dictate their lives, how they should live, look, act, and be. Getting a decent amount of likes and comparing their lives to others’ can cause feelings of loneliness and exclusion. Jean Twenge posits that teens who visit social media every day are more likely to face cyberbullying than non-users. Teenagers who spend more time on screens are more likely to be bullied online, which can lead to depression. Statistics from 2007 to 2011 reveal that, with declining face-to-face interactions among teenagers, homicide rates have decreased. On the contrary, there is an increase in suicide rates (Twenge).

Furthermore, teenagers tend to be in constant surveillance of their smartphones. This does not allow our teenagers to gain the required amount of sleep. A middle-of-the-night message or social media notification conditions them to check their phones instantly. Often they stay awake all night, immersed in their smartphones. This obsessive attention to their smartphones can result in disrupted sleep patterns. “In 2015, fifty-seven percent more teens were sleep-deprived than in 1991″(Twenge). Experts advise teenagers to get around nine hours of sleep, but many barely manage seven hours a night, and those sleep less are significantly deprived (Twenge).

Third, the daily presence of smartphones in our adolescents’ lives can result in poor academic performance. Overuse can lead to a lack of focus and attention, resulting in subpar academic performance. Smartphones are notorious distractors. What happens when students receive a message or notification during class? It’s clear that oftentimes, they check their phones, which leads to inattentiveness during class.

Heavy smartphone dependence causes students to forget the material, and they score poorly when tested on it, resulting in poor academic performance. Reports reveal that teenagers who are “heavy internet and smartphone users suffer from lack of concentration” (India Today, 2016). Their negative impact on academic achievement is all but surprising since smartphones are rarely used for academic purposes. Instead of focusing on their teachers and classmates, students are distracted by listening to music, playing games, texting friends, or checking social media. This is one of the many reasons achieving good grades is challenging. Although some may argue that smartphones are beneficial for academic purposes, the reality is they often make teenagers lazy. Rather than working out the correct answer to a question, it’s quicker and easier to Google it.

Finally, the use of smartphones is becoming essential in everyone’s routines. There are many benefits to owning a smartphone; it makes our lives easier, keeps us in touch with our relatives who live in other countries, and notifies us about all the news around the world. However, this modern-day device can have many dramatic impacts on individuals, particularly our adolescents. Although smartphones can expose us to different perspectives and connect us with people from afar, they can also detach us from the world that’s right in front of us, further impacting mental health and making it harder to communicate with others in person.

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How Smartphones Negatively Impact Teens' Sleep, Academic Performance, and Mental Health. (2023, Feb 07). Retrieved from