With the increase in popularity of so many social media sites, teenagers and even younger children are tuning in each day to see what’s going on. Sometimes they see funny videos but often they see people arguing. There seems to be more negative content on social media sites such as Facebook. It’s not uncommon to encounter angry comments.

Researchers are trying to determine how this is affecting younger children and teens. The University of Otago recently completed a study that shows that our dreams and sleep cycles are being affected by social media.

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Healthy Teens

Dr. Damian Scarf, of the Department of Psychology, reminds everyone that the mental health of adolescents and young adults can be impacted by insomnia. When kids don’t get enough sleep, they’re cranky. They can’t focus. They don’t do well in school. Good sleep and wholesome, nourishing food are both important for children. When kids lack in either, they’re more prone to depression.

Some studies have shown that kids can become suicidal if sleep-deprived or if their diet is deficient. This is something that most parents are well aware of. Children simply do better if they grow up in a stable, supportive environment. They need a good night’s sleep each night and healthy food to eat.

An international journal called Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that sleep quality is a risk factor for depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

In the article, Dr. Scarf says, “Parents and young people should ensure they have good sleep hygiene, like stopping social media use at a specific time each day and not accessing social media when in bed.”

Research into Social Media Use

In this study, researchers took a look at the behaviors of 132 tertiary students. Half of them limited their use of popular apps like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook to just ten minutes per day for each one. Though the changes only made a small impact on the students, they found that the changes were due to the fact that the students slept better whenever they limited their access to social media sites. Sleep quality improved, triggering overall improvements in their quality of life.

Dr. Scarf believes that parents should focus more on making sure their kids are getting plenty of sleep each night. Though exposure to too much social media content can cause anxiety for kids, their sleep quality seemed like a more important issue.

“However, rather than becoming preoccupied with their social media use and trying to keep up with the emergence of new platforms, such as Tik Tok, parents should focus on sleep,” Dr. Scarf says.

Kids are Impressionable

Sarah Graham, Ph.D. candidate and co-author of the study said that social media content can have a greater impact on some children. Some kids are just naturally more affected by the things they see and hear than others. This has to be taken into account as well.

She said this: “Although we did not see large impacts of social media overall, it is important to keep in mind that some young people may be more impacted by social media than others. An image-based platform like Instagram may become problematic for young females that have poor body image. So, parents should be wary of factors that may make their teenager more sensitive to social media content.”

It’s good to remember that children are just naturally more susceptible to things in life. They’re more impressionable. The things they see and hear can stick with them longer. That’s why parents should monitor their children’s activities online. Though there are so many educational things online, there are also dangers present.

social media effects on sleep quality

Monitoring Social Media

Just as parents are responsible to make sure their kids have a stable home and nourishing food, they’re also responsible to ensure that children are not exposed to negative or harmful content online. This includes monitoring their use of the internet, so it doesn’t get out of hand. It’s easy for adults and children to slip into adverse habits when it comes to spending time on social media sites.

Emergency and help lines


Anxiety phone line – 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

Mental Health Crisis Helpline

Mental Health Crisis Helpline - 0800 800 717


Depression and anxiety affects us all differently.
Free 24/7 Helpline: 0800 111 757 Text 4202

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Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland


Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat


Whatever you're going through, call us any time on 0800 726 666.

Website Address
Suicide Crisis Helpline

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
What's Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds).
Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.


Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.

Sexuality or gender identity helpline

thelowdown.co.nz – Phone: 0800 111 757 or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

Website Address
Supporting Families in Mental Illness

Supporting Families in Mental Illness - 0800 732 825.

Mental health services – Ministry of Health

We all face challenges to our mental health at various times in our lives. The way we’re feeling can change how we think and how we deal with tough times.

There’s a range of resources and services available to help including phone and online services and information, as well as face-to-face support.

Most services are free and provide information and confidential advice from trained professionals. There's also information for family, whānau, or friends if they need advice and support.

If you’re told that there is a waiting time for a service, please still reach out and make contact. Other supports can be put in place – ask what you can try in the meantime.


Helplines for children and young people

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to talk to a trained counsellor.

To talk to a trained counsellor 24/7 call the Depression helpline – 0800 111 757.

To get help from a registered nurse 24/7 call Healthline – 0800 611 116.

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat.

What's Up  – 0800 942 8787, (for 5–18-year-olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 1 pm–10 pm and on weekends, 3 pm–10 pm. Online chat is available from 7 pm–10 pm daily.

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