Background: Previous studies have indicated that electronic media use may affect the health of school-aged children.
Objectives: This study aimed to examine the association between computer use and psychological symptoms among Italian adolescents, taking into account the mediating role of difficulty in getting to sleep.
Patients and Methods: This study used data from 23,941 15-year-old students participating in the health behavior in school-aged children survey (mean age, 15.7 years; 50.1% girls). Self-completed questionnaires were administered in classrooms. Measures included computer use, psychological symptoms, and difficulty in getting to sleep. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate the associations among variables.
Results: On average, students spent approximately 2 hours per day using computers and about one-third of the sample reported weekly psychological symptoms (feeling low, irritable, and nervous). Further, 15.8% of Italian adolescents reported experiencing difficulties in getting to sleep more often than once a week or almost daily over the last six months. The structural equation model showed that more frequent computer use was associated with a higher frequency of psychological symptoms in adolescents, and the difficulty in getting to sleep partly mediated this association.
Conclusions: Overall, these results indicate the role of computer use in influencing the sleep quality and health of adolescents. Educational programs are recommended to increase awareness among families and students of the effects of computer use and sleep habits on health.