The Effects of Nighttime Cell Phone Use on Teenagers

In addition to influencing rest, using nighttime cell phone use affects the performance and quality of sleep in adolescents.
The Effects of Nighttime Cell Phone Use on Teenagers
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 05 February, 2023

Staying up late is a behavior that we might consider typical and to be expected in adolescence. Young people watch movies, surf on apps, and play online games until late. With the pandemic, this habit was accentuated, as they spent a lot of time alone, cooped up, and with no chance to socialize and meet their classmates in person. Are there consequences of nighttime cell phone use? Let’s see.

What are the effects of nighttime cell phone use on teenagers?

“Vamping” is a mixture of “vampire” and “texting” and refers to staying awake at night using a mobile device. However, today it’s more frequent in teenagers and it’s good to know what are the consequences of doing it often are and how we can intervene as adults.

Let’s start by understanding how our brain works while we sleep. When light decreases, the brain interprets that it’s time to rest and focuses on the production of melatonin, commonly known as the “sleep hormone”.

When teenagers stay awake and are exposed to light stimuli from screens, the brain sends the signal for the non-production of this hormone. In this way, circadian cycles, which are those that regulate wakefulness and sleep, are altered.

A young woman witting in bed looking at her laptop.
It’s important to keep in mind that vamping in adolescents has implications on all levels, both in terms of physical and mental health.

Alterations in the quality of sleep

During the night, certain processes take place in our body that allow us to recover from the day’s activity, such as resting. For example, not getting enough sleep weakens our immune system.

Changes in our performance

At school time, lack of rest can affect academic performance due to difficulties in paying attention and concentrating.

Changes in our routine

We know that adolescents sleep more hours as part of their growth process. However, the later they go to bed, the later they get up, and, as a result, there’s a change in their routine. As a result, there’s a greater sedentary lifestyle and overlapping or skipping meals, among other problems.

Mood alterations

Undoubtedly, adequate rest also influences our emotions. For example, adolescents may be more listless, more apathetic, or more irritable. Also, there may be greater stress and anxiety, with the presence of certain violent behaviors.

What can we do to avoid nighttime cell phone use

Some recommendations to regulate the use of cell phones at night in adolescents are the following:

Establish clear rules at home

For example, limit the use of the device to a certain time slot. Cell phone use should also not be allowed during meals. In this regard, it’s important that we’re critical of our behavior and set an example. We’re often the ones who spend the most time on our cell phones.

Leave a few minutes free from the cell phone before going to sleep

Leaving a reasonable amount of time before going to sleep without using the cell phone is a way to improve sleep hygiene and combat eyestrain. For example, suggesting that teenagers read, listen to their favorite song, leave their cell phone away from the bedside table, or approach them and talk to them about what they did during the day are some options.

It’s important to encourage teenagers to do other activities before going to sleep instead of using screens. Also, it’s key that the cell phone isn’t left on the bedside table or anywhere else within reach of the young person.

Ask about the type of content they consume

It’s important to note that it’s not only about the time they spend with the mobile device, but also the content and quality of what they see. At a stage where they’re in the midst of building their identity, they can be very sensitive to the messages circulating on social networks.

Use parental control applications

The idea is to promote learning in favor of the autonomy of adolescents and for them to be the ones who control themselves in the use of cell phones. This can be reinforced through parental control applications that indicate how much time they use them to prevent their use for longer than agreed.

It’s not a question of prohibiting cellphone use, but of making good use of it

A well-known phrase says “if you can’t beat them, join them”, in an attempt to emphasize that, instead of fighting, it’s better to think about finding common ground. Cell phones, the Internet, and new technologies are here to stay. Moreover, they bring numerous benefits and facilitate our activities in many ways.

However, it’s a matter of learning to find intermediate terms. A mobile device shouldn’t become the centerpiece of our day to the point of creating dependence or producing discomfort. In this regard, it’s essential that your child’s cell phone doesn’t replace face-to-face conversations or the possibility of contemplating a landscape in all its splendor just to capture a selfie. Teaching and clear rules must start at home and we must set an example.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Carrillo-Mora, Paul, Ramírez-Peris, Jimena, & Magaña-Vázquez, Katia. (2013). Neurobiología del sueño y su importancia: antología para el estudiante universitario. Revista de la Facultad de Medicina (México)56(4), 5-15. Recuperado en 17 de diciembre de 2022, de
  • Weezel, A. V., & Benavides, C. (2009). Uso de teléfonos móviles por los jóvenes. Cuadernos de Información, (25),5-14.[fecha de Consulta 17 de Diciembre de 2022]. ISSN: 0716-162x. Recuperado de:
  • Vicente-Escudero, José Luis, Saura-Garre, Pedro, López-Soler, Concepción, Martínez, Antonia, & Alcántara, Mavi. (2019). Adicción al móvil e internet en adolescentes y su relación con problemas psicopatológicos y variables protectoras. Escritos de Psicología (Internet)12(2), 103-112. Epub 09 de noviembre de 2020.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.