Almost ten percent of youth spend more than seven and a half hours accessing technology (smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions) daily.  It is estimated that they spend an hour and a half per day texting and another thirty minutes talking on a cell phone or smartphone.

There are many benefits, such as increased collaboration and the ability to multi-task, but teachers and coaches should be mindful of the risks accompanying heavy media use.  Unplugging from electronic devices for a few hours daily can provide student-athletes with better sleep, enhancing brain development and recovery and regeneration.

Smartphone Use in 2013

  • 37% of teenagers have a smartphone and 41% own a cell phone.
  • Three quarters of youth use mobile devices to access the internet occasionally but one in four are “cell-mostly” users.
  • Teens spend about two hours daily accessing “new” media on a mobile device, in addition to another hours spent on “old” content.

Consequences of Heavy Electronic Devices Use

  • Nearly half of the heaviest media consumers (>16 hrs daily) had C averages or below, compared to a quarter of light users (<3 hrs).
  • Heavy users are more likely to report that they were bored or sad, experience frustration at school or experience conflicts with others.

Use of Electronic Devices After Dark

  • Youth who access electronic devices in their bedroom are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to be overweight.
  • Seven in ten youths have a television in their bedroom and one-third have a computer with Internet access.
  • One half of students reported using electronics after bedtime.

Impact on Sleep Patterns

  • One in ten children experience abnormal sleep patterns, a rate that may rise to fifty or seventy-five percent for those will mental illnesses or developmental delays.
    • Adolescents and children with poor sleep patterns experience fatigue, reduced memory and learning, lack of focus and increase irritability.
  • Video games – even those which are non-violent – can put the body in a state of stress, creating a “fight or flight” response.
    • This primitive reaction prevents humans from experiencing deep restorative sleep since their bodies remain on alert.
    • Blood pressure and pulse remain elevated hours after play.
  • Internet surfing and texting tax adolescent brains because of the intense visual and cognitive stimulation.
    • Screen brightness slows melatonin release, which enables the body to experience deep sleep.
    • Electromagnetic radiation (created by wireless devices) disrupts melatonin and serotonin levels.

Effects on Cognition

  • Video games can help children of all ages develop reasoning and problem solving abilities.
    • Transfer from specific activities such as social media or smartphone games to academic work is limited.
    • Adolescents can recognize patterns they have seen before but do not apply their knowledge in unfamiliar situations.
  • Inspired by independence gained from personal electronics use, youth demand more customization and choice in their lives.
    • Projects must be dynamic, varied and collaborative.