As parents, do you remember the sleepless nights we endured the first few months after we brought our little bundles of joy home?
For many of us, we relied on caffeine, cat naps, and the promise of better nights to come to get us through those exhausting days. With a cruel and surprising sense of humor, our older children are still fighting us on sleep schedules and sleeping soundly through the night. While they are not needing a midnight feeding, many of our older children and teens are losing sleep at night due to technology usage and their digital devices.
The Nightmare Digital Devices Pose
The glow of our children’s beloved electronics 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. There is an abundance of research and collected data that proves the light emitted from Smartphones, gaming systems, computers, and even televisions can mix brain signals causing our kids to miss out on vital sleep.
Besides biology, many of our children keep their devices next to their beds to ensure they won’t miss out on any updates or messages. This “FOMO” (fear of missing out) effects 56 percent of all social media users including our kids. Every ping or alert can interfere with the natural sleep cycle, waking a child several times a night.
The Importance Of Sleep
Parents know the power of a good night’s sleep and so do the experts. 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 seriously sleep deprived.
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.
Teens and children who don’t get enough sleep tend to be more likely to experience inattention, poor impulse control, and hyperactivity. A lack of sleep can interfere with a child’s behavior and performance in school. If the mental risks of sleep deprivation aren’t frightening enough, 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.
Protecting A Child’s Sleep From Digital Devices
Even though we can no longer swaddle our children to help them get a good night’s sleep, we can help avoid our children from using digital devices when they are supposed to be sleeping. Please consider the following six suggestions to help children and teens get quality sleep every evening:
Ditch the technology 30 minutes before bedtime. To promote sleep, encourage family members to power down technology before you turn down the covers.
Control the wi-fi. Call your network provider or read the wireless router directions for parental controls that are available. Many parental controls allow you to restrict certain websites during specific hours or require a password to gain access.
Limit available data or minutes on wireless handheld devices. 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.
Create a docking or charging station by the front door. This has two benefits. A child will keep their devices out of their room and morning routines will flow smoothly without everyone dashing around looking for lost phones or wayward chargers.
Consider implementing a family technology contract that includes night time usage. By laying out the expectations and consequences, you can prevent future problems from developing.
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.
Screen’s Night Time Feature: A Solution For Parents
The Screen solution have a night time option built in. It allows parents to control device time and assure that sleep time is device free. Screen allows a parent to set healthy limits on all electronic devices your family uses every day, while encouraging the family discussion around technology usage.
What methods does your family utilize to avoid kids using their digital devices at night?
About the author:
Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist who specialized in the digital world. As a graduate of NorthWestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism, she’s combines her love of technology, gadgets, and bulldogs with a career in freelance writing to make the world a more enlightened place.