Excessive use of mobile phones causes students to fare poorly in elementary, junior high and high school, not only because it makes them lose their concentration due to a lack of sleep, but also because it apparently compromises what they have studied, researchers say.

Students who spend several hours each day staring into mobile phones or smartphones tend to change their sleeping habits and stay up late to use the devices, education ministry research published Thursday showed.

The research was conducted last November with 23,139 participants from the fifth grade of primary school up to the third year of high school, at 771 public schools nationwide.

It showed, for instance, that 53.5 percent of junior high students who said they use a mobile phone for more than four hours a day to talk, send email or surf the Net, habitually do not get to sleep until after midnight. That ratio was much lower, at 14.9 percent, for those who don’t use mobile phones at all.

The research also found that overusing mobile phones affects the quality of students’ sleep.

Asked if they find it hard to get up in the morning, 78.1 percent of junior high respondents who often watch or use electronic devices, including TVs, game consoles, mobile phones and computers, immediately before bedtime said they sometimes or frequently do have trouble the next morning. That compared with 60.9 percent among those who don’t use gadgets at all.

This lack of sleep also affects school performance, said Junichi Sato, an education board official who led the project, which was jointly carried out by the city of Sendai and Tohoku University.

The research, published in March, looked into the correlation between studying enthusiasm and smartphone usage. It found that using a mobile phone for an extended time even affects students who habitually study a lot.

That implies a lack of sleep or reduced study time as a result of mobile phone usage is not the only way these devices affect performance at school.

The study revealed that students who spent over two hours every day both studying and using messaging apps, especially the popular Line, scored worse on a math exam than those who spent less than 30 minutes a day but didn’t use a smartphone at all.

“When people talk about children using smartphones in a negative sense, their main concern seems to be about their criminal use, but this study calls the attention of parents and students to the risk that excessive use of smartphones can compromise students’ effort to study,” Sato said.

Sato advises the use of smartphones and other mobile devices be limited to just an hour a day.

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