Teens Losing Sleep to Tech

L JataniaAs a kid, did you ever hide a flashlight under your pillow? Then pull it out after you were supposed to be asleep, so you could sneak in another half-hour of reading?

I did that. A lot.

The other day, I was changing the sheets on my 13-year-old daughter’s bed, and I found a flashlight under her pillow. I smiled, because it’s absolutely because she loves reading, and I know she’s sneaking in a few extra chapters after lights out. It felt so charmingly old school, such a throwback to the good old days.

Although reading past bedtime is technically against the rules, I didn’t feel as worried or angry about it as I would have been if I had found her phone in her room. We have a strict no-phones-in-bedrooms policy, both so we can loosely monitor their online activity, and to preserve their rooms as a place for sleeping (or, perhaps, late-night reading). No screens in the places where we rest.

I wonder how long we’ll be able to keep it up, though – to keep that rule in place. So far, our kids aren’t very deep into social media – they text with their friends sometimes, but neither of our older two children – aged 13 and 14 – are big social media users. They don’t have Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook accounts, and are only rarely on Instagram. So we’ve been able to avoid the FOMO (fear of missing out) situation so far, but perhaps we have been lucky.

A new study by CHEO came out recently about how social media, and use of personal devices, is clearly tied to lack of sleep for young teens. While teens miss out on sleep for other reasons as well, including caffeine use, lack of exercise, and general unwillingness to go to bed when they are tired (okay, that last one isn’t in the study – it’s just personal experience!), social media and screen use are adding to the problem.

We’ve always been very, very big on sleep here. From the time our kids were babies, they were on a strict sleep schedule. We always had earlier bedtimes than most of our friends’ families, but we stood by it, and I think it has helped us raise happy, healthy kids. Now that screen time is a known factor, we plan to be extra vigilant. It helps that we already have the no-screens-in-rooms rule, but we could definitely be better about reducing screen use for a half-hour before bed (recommended by most sleep consultants), and about making sure their pre-bed time is spent interacting with their family – actually live, in-person people! – rather than chatting online.

We’re also sticking with a fixed bedtime for now, although our young teens have been giving us pushback, so bedtime will continue to be negotiated as needed. And I’m not above looking the other way when late-night reading occurs, from time to time – as long as it’s happening on paper, not on a screen.

How about you – do you allow screens in bedrooms? What are your bedtime rules?

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