Kids reversing their sleep patterns to stay up all night online and sleepduring the day after dropping out of school is a new phenomenon.
Senior clinical psychologist Mark Smyth, who gives regular talks on social media and teens, said a lack of sleep in the teenage population has become a “big issue”.
“In some extreme cases you’ll get young people who completely reverse their sleep cycle.
“They end up being awake all night playing games, talking with friends or messaging and then sleeping all day and being completely withdrawn from society and dropping out of school. That does happen.
“I’ve been seeing this for over a year. I’ve had young people who do not leave their room at all, who are isolated even within their own family home.
“It is a very lonely existence and very hard for them to make the jump back from the online world back into the real world.”
The top child psychologist stressed that this happens in extreme cases, but said that the general population of teenagers are being affected by a lack of sleep due to online habits.
“I don’t like calling it an addiction because it gives the impression it’s out of someone’s control. I give talks to parents and say very bluntly: ‘It can only becomes an addiction if you allow it. You control the wifi. You pay for the phone.’
“It’s about parents putting in limits. Social media is an integral part of young people’s identity. It’s the equivalent of sitting on the wall outside your house chatting to friends. But the world of the teen has evolved and now they can be reached 24/7.”
He said parents need to monitor their teenager’s habits on the internet more carefully to ensure they get enough sleep.
“In some case it is drastically affecting their sleep. They’re struggling to get up for school or not getting up at all. They are irritable, they can’t concentrate.
The World Health Organisation recommends no more than two hours screen time a night but Mr Smyth said Irish teens tend to spend a lot more time online.
“You could have anything up to six, eight hours, and I’ve heard of 14 hours a night. They need help to understand they need a sleep routine and parents get a lot of mental health resources online, like www.reachout.com