As kids are heading back to school this fall, it’s especially important for teens to get adequate sleep. Rested kids are more alert and do better in school. But your teen’s cell phone or mobile device could be making it harder than ever for them to get the right amount of sleep every night.
The Role of Texting and Social Networking
Texting and social networking could be keeping your teens up at night. Some teenagers find it hard to log out of Facebook or ignore a text at bedtime, especially when their friends are still awake texting and Tweeting.
Other teens go to bed, but they may wake up throughout the night to answer text messages, keeping their phone at their bedside or under their pillow to alert them whenever they receive a text.
Even if they do turn the device off just before hopping into bed, teens may still find that they have a hard time sleeping: studies show that the backlit displays on electronic devices make it harder to calm down and fall asleep.
Technology-Driven Sleep Deprivation
On average, teenagers need 8.5 to 9+ hours of sleep per night. Some studies say that as many as 52% of teens are sleep-deprived, and 20% report falling asleep in class at least once in the past two weeks.
Sleep deprivation in teens is not a new problem, by any means. Teens have always been interested in socializing, gaming, listening to music, or other activities that are more fun than sleeping. However, adding a smart phone, tablet, or laptop to a teen’s bedroom often invites delayed and disrupted sleep.
What Do Sleep-Deprived Teens Look Like?
It’s not hard to recognize a teen who isn’t getting enough sleep. Sleep-deprived teens are often irritable, impulsive, and moody. They have trouble dealing with stress, experience concentration and memory problems, and may have poor performance in school. They could even suffer from physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, blurry vision, or a change in appetite.
If your teen exhibits some of the signs of sleep deprivation, investigate whether an electronic device is making it hard for them to sleep well at night.
How Parents Can Help
Teens still need their parents to establish clear guidelines and make sure they follow through. Here are some tips for parents on setting rules to keep texting or social networking from keeping children awake at night.
- Involve your teens in the process. They will be more likely to abide by rules they helped create.
- Designate a “lights out, devices off” time at night. You may want to extend the time on weekends when they don’t have to wake up early for school the next day.
- Charge phones nightly in a hallway or kitchen area, not the teen’s bedroom. Some parents insist on having their child’s phone in their possession at night, which probably isn’t necessary unless your teen is habitually breaking the rules to text in the middle of the night.
- Set out limits before allowing your teen to have a new phone or device of their own. Start things off on the right foot by talking about how to handle the device after bedtime, before issues arise.
- Consider turning off devices 30 minutes before bedtime, which encourages better sleep when your teen turns in for the night.
Parents play an instrumental role in not only monitoring their child’s online activity, but also setting limits on when online activity is appropriate. Many teens, especially younger teens, aren’t able to enforce these kinds of limits on themselves and need your help.
Make sure that your teenagers are turning off their devices and getting enough sleep, and they will be healthier, happier, and more able to focus. That’s especially important now that they are back in school.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.