Experts have called it “Social insomnia “ and it is an alarming phenomenon that interests him teenagers, hyper-connected not only during the day but also at night. To realistically photograph the situation of adolescents and sleep, in all its gravity, is the investigation “Teenagers and Lifestyles“created by the Adolescent Laboratory and IARD Research Institute, with the collaboration of the Cultural Association of Pediatricians (ACP) and the Permanent Youth and Alcohol Observatory.
The survey – edited by Carlo Buzzi, Professor of Sociology of the University of Trento, referent of the sociological area of the Adolescent Laboratory and member of the Scientific Committee of the IARD Institute – and Maurizio Tucci, President of Laboratorio Adolescenza – took place between the months of November 2018 and May 2019 on a national representative sample of 2019 students (1027 males and 992 females) attending the lower third class (age group 13-14 years).
The research highlights that if on the one hand lifestyles and behaviors attributable to adolescence often continue until beyond the age of thirty, on the other side we are witnessing a progressive anticipation of these behaviors, for which observation and consequent social, educational and institutional attention must take into account these changes.
About 60% of teens have their first cellphone between the ages of 10 and 11, but over 28% have had it in gift before the age of ten. Only a small minority gets hold of it after the age of 12.
And it doesn’t go much better with social media: 54% start their life online between 11 and 12, and 12% before the age of 10.
Comparing the data with those relating to the 2017 edition of the same survey, it is highlighted – despite the useless floods of recommendations from the “experts” – a continuous precociation of the phenomenon, just as the percentage of very young people who do not use any tool to protect their profile (11% to 15%) made available by the “social network” is also increasing.
Added to this is that, when access to a social network provides a minimum age (which they do not have) to access it, they do not give up, but 47% indicate the minimum age to access, 20% an age of case and 23% of being of age anyway, because (explain the young people in the focus groups carried out in support of the survey) “so they don’t take you for a child”.
These are the words of Maurizio Tucci, President of Laboratorio Adolescenza:
A dangerous onset at an almost childhood age when one does not absolutely have the necessary psychological maturity to be able to use such powerful and insidious communication tools even at a much more mature age. But beyond the most visible dangers – the drift of cyberbullying is the most evident – the 24-hour stay in the virtual square contributes to increasing the fragility of a generation of adolescents constantly in performance anxiety. As if that were not enough to feel in competition in every context in which they operate (from school, to sport, to any other activity they carry out), being constantly “in the showcase “ and psychologically dependent on the judgment of others manifested through like and follower it makes them insecure to the point of changing, probably even unconsciously, the way they communicate with each other. An example of this – is also given to us by the seemingly bizarre use of the oral communication through the smartphone. Between them there is never a real phone call, but only very long sequences of voice messages (sometimes even of dramatic content) which evidently reassure them, because they do not force them to face a debate in real time.
Regarding the most used social networks (and messaging tools), the progressive is confirmed Facebook drop and the increase of Instagram. Downward trend for Ask Fm, while Snap Chat is growing. The use of Telegram and This Crush becomes consistent (almost non-existent in 2016), while we have not detected the data on TikTok, which exploded very recently. WhatsApp is practically “embedded” in all teenagers.
40% came into contact (directly or indirectly) with episodes of cyberbullying. Positive that 56% say that the first thing to do, in case you become a victim of an episode of cyberbullying, is notify parents.
On the other hand, it is a little strident to hear people say (30%) that social media should not be used to prevent cyberbullying.
Only 6.8% of the sample interviewed say they do sleep at least 9 hours a night (which represents the amount of sleep appropriate at that age), while 20% sleeps even less than 7 hours: 55% go to bed between 22.00 and 23.00 and 28% even after 23.00 (28%).
Furthermore, 72% of females and 58.5% of males say they have trouble falling asleep (13% often have problems) and 66% (72.3% of females) wake up during the night and of not being able to fall asleep anymore.
But what do sleepless teens do when they can’t fall asleep? For the majority (44% of females and 36% of males) the most frequent behavior is surf the Internet or use social media. A scant 30% turn on the television, less than 10% – and we are not surprised – read a few pages of a book.
It is significant to note that, even when difficulty falling asleep occurs frequently, less than 30% say they have told their doctor and less than half have talked about it with their parents.
Maria Luisa Zuccolo, head of the “Adolescence Working Group” of the Pediatric Cultural Association, explains:
Delaying the time to go to sleep more than necessary can cause a true sleep-wake rhythm disorder due to lack of synchronization between internal rhythm (attempt to sleep at a time incompatible with one’s internal clock) e pace imposed by social needs (get up to go to school). According to the few data available in literature the problem frequencies, called Delayed sleep phase syndrome, in the adolescent population it is estimated between 7-16%, but empirical findings and, above all, the data of this research describe a decidedly more alarming situation
The mobile phone and social networks they are sleep and insomnia companions of the very young. The majority of respondents do not turn it off before going to sleep and often even during the night, text with friends.
And the effects can be seen, because changes the quantity and quality of sleep of those who say to turn it off before going to bed, compared to those who say to keep it on but muted or, above all, to leave it on and not muted.
14.7% of those who turn it off and 32.9% of those who leave it on say they sleep less than seven hours a night; as well as among those who keep it on, the percentage of those who find it hard to sleep increases (69.2% vs 61%).
I “thoughts“Are the motivation most indicated (especially by girls) as the cause of the difficulty in falling asleep, followed by not being sleepy at the right time, but at other times of the day, and by concern for school (it is no coincidence that in school the problem decreases).
The main effects of little and bad sleep they are mainly:
difficulty getting up in the morning (82%)
having difficulty in carrying out the usual daily activities due to sleep during the course of the day (55%).
Finally, it is interesting to observe that young people are very aware of how to act so that night rest can be improved: at the first places they put sports during the day, have a healthy diet, turn off the mobile phone during the night.