Computers and Cellphones Are Keeping Kids Awake At Night
It’s 1 a.m. and Sara wakes to the sound of her vibrating cellphone after a friend sent a text. At 2 a.m. Matt is chatting with his girl friend on Skype. At 6:30a.m.they both wake to the sound of their alarm clocks because it’s a school day. They stumble out of bed bleary eyed and drag themselves to school. While in history class, Sara doses off. Matt rear ends someone at a stop light because he’s not as alert as he needs to be. Fortunately, no one is hurt.
This scenario is becoming an all too common problem for tweens/teens suffering from sleep deprivation because they are using cellphones, social networks, gaming sites in the middle of the night while alone in their rooms. Sleep deprivation can lead to dangerous situations and also clearly impacts learning. A recent study revealed that 75% of teens use cellphones at night when they should be sleeping. Also, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics study, after 9 pm, 55% reported being online and 24% played computer games. Parents are asleep in their rooms and have no idea this is going on.
Sleep Deprivation Impacts Ability to Learn
Sleep deprivation really does impact our kids’ ability to learn according to Dr. Paul Howard-Jones, an internationally recognized neuroscientist. We need sleep to learn, plain and simple. Dr. Jones says that sleep allows the brain to consolidate information that’s been received and encoded. Learning actually takes place while we sleep. When sleep is disturbed the ability to learn is reduced.
“There are literally millions of adolescents who feel despondent, get poor marks, or are too tired to join high-school teams all because they are getting too little sleep.” How can we as parents help? If you want to optimize your kids ability to learn in the classroom, take away and turn off those cellphones and computers at night. When the phone is left on, kids feel the need to answer. “It could be something important. I’ve got to see who it is.” Parents need to be parents and step in to make sure their children are getting adequate sleep and are not having their sleep interrupted by cellphones and computers.
The Bright Screen Light Affect
Neuroscientists have discovered that bright screen lights from computer devices decrease melatonin which in turn affect the bodies sleep/ wake cycles. So if your child is using their cellphone at night their ability to sleep will be decreased.
Recommended Amount of Sleep
The medical community recommends that children 7-12 years old get 10–11 hours of sleep per night and that 12-18 years old get at least 8–9 hours per night. Unfortunately, about 45% of adolescents ages 11 to 17 get less than eight hours of sleep a night and 28% of high-school kids fall asleep in school at least once a week, according to a Sleep in America poll.
Sleep Deprivation Affects Health Too
The role of sleep has clearly been under valued and yet has major implications for a child’s/teen’s well being and health. “The trend of sleep deprivation is leading to many daytime problems for teenagers, including headaches, impaired concentration, weakened immune systems, crankiness, increased use of nicotine or caffeine and hyperactive behavior often misconstrued as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” says Dr. Myrza Perez. Drowsy driving which can lead to deadly accidents is also a big concern for teens who are sleep deprived. Anxiety disorders and even obesity have been linked to sleep deprivation. One teen age girl who suffered from headaches, went to the doctor and had a CAT scan. The diagnosis turned out to be too much texting at night.
What Parents Can Do:
- Establish rules of computer/cellphone use with your teen.
- Teach your kids the value of sleep. Kids want to do well in school and on sports teams and to be educated about the impact of sleep deprivation on their well being. If your teen understands the importance of sleep, they may be more willing to turn off cellphones and computers to get a good night’s ZZZZs.
- The best option is to have your children plug their phones into chargers and turn in their laptops at a certain time at night—in the parents bedroom.
- Some phone carriers have parental controls that allow you to turn off your child’s phone at night.
- The “Trust but Verify” approach can be used if you allow your kids to keep their cellphones and laptops at night. You can check cellphones by looking at the phone usage records provided by your wireless carrier. Phones should be off, not left on vibrate which will still wake up your child. For laptops you can check the recorded computer activity of your child, (with a monitoring product like ScreenRetriever) by viewing your kid’s internet activity-to see if they are complying with your rules of turning off their laptops at night.
And don’t forget that you as the parent remain the biggest influence in your child’s life. They are listening even when you think they’re not!