The Impacts of Smartphone Dependence on Sleep Quality and Everyday Memory: A National Survey on Chinese School Children


Some existing studies revealed that smartphone dependence was a negative predictor of user’s sleep quality and memory. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms that may mediate or moderate the correlation, like the relationship between smartphone use and dependence. Also, how the sleep quality and memory are measured differed a lot in previous studies. More importantly, most existing findings were based on college students and adults. However, there are still few concerns on the impacts of smartphone on children, who are more and more dependent on ICTs.

This study aims to examine school children’s differences in smartphone use and smartphone self-efficacy, which are predictors of smartphone dependence. The impacts of smartphone dependence on children’s sleep quality and everyday memory are the key topics of this paper. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in China, including 21 provinces in the whole seven regional areas of Chinese mainland, by a random cluster sampling among primary school, middle school, and high school students (N = 2918).

A structural equation modeling was employed to test the six hypotheses drawn from conceptual and empirical bases. A series of constructs and variables were measured by typical scales, like Power Usage Scale, Mobile Phone Addiction Index, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and Everyday Memory Questionnaire (revised). All the measurements showed good reliability and validity in the present study.

The results showed that: (1) The amount of smartphone use (including the duration of smartphone use, and the frequency of smartphone use) and smartphone self-efficacy have a significantly positive impacts on smartphone dependence; (2) Sleep quality has a positive effect on everyday memory; 3) Smartphone dependence has a significant negative effect on sleep quality and everyday memory; 4) Pre-bedtime exposure of smartphone moderates the correlations between smartphone dependence and sleep quality.

Fig. 1 the research framework and all the path coefficients

Until now, little is known on the extent of smartphone dependence among different school children in China, as well as its consequences on children’s cognitive development and mental health. This study provided important insights into one of pathways by which the amount and self-efficacy of smartphone use can lead to declines in school children’s well-being. Another notable moderator, is pre-bedtime exposure of smartphone, which was rarely discussed in previous studies but quite worth of further research. On this basis, this study tried to construct an integrated model about smartphone use, smartphone dependence, children’s sleep quality, and everyday memory. It provided theoretical and practical significance in future smart media education, practice, and administrative policy making.