It is 2AM and I wake up to the sound of my son’s cheers. He was on his phone playing a game with his friends, and he won. I don’t think he wanted anyone to know he is still awake nor wake anybody else, but he did.
I need my 8 hours of sleep, otherwise I become grumpy and don’t function well. So when I woke up at 2AM to find him on his phone you can imagine my reaction. In the morning we had “The Talk” to refresh his memory on the house technology rules.
I want to believe it was a one time incident, but unfortunately being the parent of a teenager that needs to break boundaries, I know it won’t be the last time I catch him using his phone at night. He is not the only one, many of our children are losing sleep at night due to their digital devices.
The same as me, kids need their sleep.
Why Do Our Children Need to Sleep?
Children need quality deep sleep to help regulate growth hormones and maintain optimal functioning while awake. This includes reasoning, emotions, and decision making skills. One study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found a correlation between every lost hour of sleep and a 38 percent increase in feelings of sadness and a 58 percent jump in attempted suicide.
A lack of sleep can interfere with a child’s behavior and performance in school. Teens and children who don’t get enough sleep tend to be more likely to experience inattention, poor impulse control, and hyperactivity. Long-term effects can be seen in higher risks of obesity and chances of developing diabetes. If a child already suffers from health issues, a loss of sleep can magnify these health issues.
Tech industry leaders like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and others make it a priority to have a good night sleep. We should have sleep a priority for our kids if we want them to succeed. According to researchers, more than 90 percent of American teens are chronically deprived of sleep with only a mere 9 percent of high school students meeting the recommended nine hours of sleep. With numbers like those, it is fairly safe to say that our children are sleep deprived.
What is Keeping Them Up?
The glow of most electronic devices and plethora of screens can disrupt the circadian rhythms that affect their sleep-wake cycles. Children’s bodies are naturally programmed to interpret light and dark as signals to fall asleep or be alert. Recent researches proves the light emitted from smartphones, computers, gaming devices, and even the television can mix brain signals causing our kids to miss out on vital sleep.
It’s not just the light. It’s also the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) that keeps them up at night. Many of our children keep their devices next to their beds to ensure they won’t miss out on any updates or messages. This fear effects 56 percent of all social media users including our children. Every ping or alert can interfere with the natural sleep cycle, waking a child several times a night.
How Can We Protect Our Child’s Sleep From Digital Devices?
It is not easy to make sure our kids have a good night’s sleep, but we can help them avoid using their devices when they are supposed to be sleeping. “You shall not …place a stumbling block before the blind”(Leviticus 19:14), that should be our guideline.
Ditch all devices 30 minutes before bedtime. To promote sleep, encourage family members to power down technology before you turn down the light and get under the covers.
Restrict phones or devices from bedrooms. In our highly connected world it is important to give children down time from electronics. Institute a family policy that all devices need to stay in common living areas. A charging station is a huge help in this case.
Have a charging station in a common location at the house. This has two benefits. A child will keep their devices out of their room, and morning routines will flow smoothly with everyone phones ready and fully charged.
Invest in an alarm clock. I get this question all the time “How will I wake up in the morning if I don’t have my phone?”. The answer is simple, use an alarm clock. This is how I woke up in the morning for long before smartphones were even a thing. It’s reliable, it works, and it has no other functionalities that prevent me from having a good night sleep.
Turn off Notifications. On all devices you can set to turn off notification. No beeps and messages popping on the screen when it’s time to sleep will help with ‘FOMO’.
Turn off wi-fi. Many parental controls allow you to restrict certain websites during specific hours or require a password to gain access. Your network provider or your router most likely allow you to set schedule restrictions as well.
Limit the data on their smartphones. This strategy might not prevent children from going online at night, but it will force them to be more responsible with the time they are allotted.
There is no one size fits all, you should try and see what works for your family. I’d love to hear of your strategy to avoid your child using their device at night.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com