Sarah E. Domoff, PhD

Clinical Child Psychologist, Expert on Children's Media Use and Problematic Media Use in Adolescents. Director of the Family Health Lab, Central Michigan University

Media Mondays: Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Cellphones Bite

Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Cellphones Bite
Written by Emma Skoseth, undergraduate member of the Family Health Lab

 It’s no secret: when our kids say goodnight and head for their bedrooms, they may not truly be logging off. With a rise in cellphone ownership among adolescents comes a rise in usage, and in many households, the glow of these screens under the blanket well past bedtime is becoming a nightly reality. What may serve as an adolescent’s dream-ending to a busy day can be a parent’s nightmare, and this begs the question among caregivers and researchers alike: how does excessive use of cellphones impact the physical health of children? A review of academic literature done by Domoff et al. (2019) has found that while there are either mixed results or too few studies done on the linkage between excessive use of mobile device and a variety of physical health concerns, there is strong evidence that heavy device use has negative consequences for sleep outcomes; the examined studies support the claim that excessive smartphone use isn’t just a nightmare for parents, but can pose problems to children and their sleeping patterns.  

What the Research Says
The literature review looked at 25 studies that dealt with investigating the relationship between excessive usage of mobile devices and sleep health (Domoff et al., 2019). Different studies looked at different aspects of sleep health, examining sleep duration, overall sleep quality, sleep disruption, and delayed onset of sleep after going to bed. Strong evidence emerged from these studies that the excessive usage of mobile devices is associated with shorter sleep duration; additionally, the nighttime use of devices and social media is associated with poorer sleep quality.

What This Means: Fighting the Nightmare of Adverse Sleep Impacts
With strong evidence to support the claim that excessive usage of mobile devices has negative consequences for the sleep health of children and teenagers, actions should be taken to curb these mobile device habits, as quality sleep is essential to our health.

Parents and other caregivers should:
1. Promote a balanced amount of screen time, and set limits on mobile device use, especially at the end of the day.
2. Encourage children to leave their phones in a different room (not in their bedroom) and put devices away one-two hours before bedtime.

In addition to parents’ reducing screen media use around bedtime, youth also can work on creating a balance in their life. For example, at Central Michigan University, Dr. Sarah Domoff’s Family Health Lab has designed the Developing Healthy Social Media Practices intervention (DHSMP) for use in classrooms. An important component of DHSMP is helping youth identify how their phone use impacts their health. If you want your school or clinic to help youth reduce problematic or nighttime phone use, reach out to Dr. Domoff to learn more about bringing DHSMP to your community!

Click here to read the article.

Domoff, S. E., Borgen, A. L., Foley, R. P., & Maffett, A. (2019). Excessive use of mobile devices and children’s physical health. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 1(2), 169-175.

Dr. Domoff interviewed on The Today Show segment, “Does your kid need a digital detox? How to break those tech habits”

Dr. Domoff was interviewed by Jake Ward for The Today Show segment, “Does your kid need a digital detox? How to break those tech habits” (2020, January 31).

Watch this episode via The Today Show
Watch this episode via NBC News

Dr. Domoff and Students Publish Chapter in “Clinician’s Toolkit for Children’s Behavioral Health”

Dr. Domoff and students, Aubrey Borgen and Chelsea Robinson, recently published a chapter in the “Clinician’s Toolkit for Children’s Behavioral Health” book (2020, edited by Michele Knox) on how behavioral health clinicians can screen for and address problematic media use among children and adolescents. Their chapter includes semi-structured interview forms to guide the assessment process and resources to share with children and families. Click on the link here to access.

Dr. Domoff Presented at DeVos Children’s Hospital/Spectrum Health Pediatric Grand Rounds

Dr. Domoff presented, “Adolescents’ Screen Media Use: Assessing and Treating Problematic Media Use” at DeVos Children’s Hospital/Spectrum Health Pediatric Grand Rounds in Grand Rapids, Michigan on September 10, 2019.

Dr. Domoff Presented at the Federal Trade Commission’s Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes

Dr. Domoff presented, “Children and Gaming: Current Issues in the Digital Age” as the invited speaker at the Federal Trade Commission’s Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes on August 7, 2019. Click here to watch her and other researchers speak about children and gaming.


Dr. Domoff Presented at the Christian Alliance for Orphans OVC Applied Research and Best Practice Symposium

Dr. Domoff presented, “Preventing Problematic Media Use in Vulnerable Children” as the keynote speaker at the Christian Alliance for Orphans OVC Applied Research and Best Practice Symposium on May 8, 2019.

Dr. Domoff to Present at the Schooling Social Brains Conference

Dr. Domoff will present, “Child Development in the Digital Age: Impacts of Excessive Screen Time on Social-Emotional Skills and Achievement” at the Schooling Social Brains Conference in New York City on May 4, 2019.

Dr. Domoff and Graduate Student Ryan Foley Present at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Dr. Domoff and graduate student Ryan Foley presented at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory at the Digital Media and Developing Minds, 2nd Congress on October 15-18, 2018.

Three presentations were accepted at this congress:

  • Enhancing youth engagement in smartphone-based EMA research using gamification principles and eMoodie app.
  • Use of passive sensing to quantify adolescent mobile device usage: Feasibility and acceptability of the eMoodie app.
  • Addictive phone use and academic performance in U.S. adolescents.* Selected for a Flash Talk.

Dr. Domoff Presented at the Dartmouth College Ninth Annual Thematic Meeting on Addiction

Dr. Domoff presented, “Screen Media Addiction in Children: A New Disorder in the Digital Age?” at the Dartmouth College Ninth Annual Thematic Meeting on Addiction on September 26, 2018.

Dr. Domoff Presents at Michigan Head Start Association Fall Assembly

Dr. Domoff presented, “Mobile devices and tablets: How to increase positive interactions with children and families around screen time” at the Michigan Head Start Association Fall Assembly in Mackinaw Island, MI on September 20th, 2018.

See more information here.

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