The Text Monster – Are Mobile Phones Keeping Our Kids Up All Night?

textingIt used to be, when our kids couldn’t fall asleep at night, there was something horrible and scary keeping them awake.  The boogie monster was in their closet or under their bed.  They just knew it!  The remedy for parents was pretty simple: turn on the lights, show the child there is nothing there, and then it’s “sweet dreams” and back to sleep.  So how do parents intervene when it’s not something scary that’s keeping their kids awake – it’s something they love.

We are all quite aware of how digitally connected kids and teens are in this day and age.According to the Pew Research Center, 75% of 12-17 year-olds are cell phone users.  Of that percentage, 88% are text-messagers.  One in every three teens sends more than 100 messages a day.  Yet there are so few hours in the day.  So how many hours are our kids and teens staying up, past bedtime mind you, to keep the conversation going with friends?

According to a study conducted by researchers from JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., teens “send an average of 34 texts a night (adding up to 3,400 a month) after going to bed – in some cases up to four hours after” they planned to go to bed.  This leaves little time for kids to get their recommended 9 hours of sleep.  In fact, experts estimate that 80% of adolescents don’t get the amount of sleep they need. 

This may shock some parents, but to some who have worked the long “sleep patrol” hours, this is no surprise.  On average, 4 out of 5 teens admit they have slept with their cell phone in or near their bed (often on a headboard or nightstand within reaching distance).  Teens who use their cell phones to text are 42% more likely to sleep with their phones, often under their pillows so that the vibration or jingle will wake them if someone tries to contact them.  In focus groups conducted by Pew Research Center, researchers found this to be a “fairly common practice”. 

To combat this, usage limits are often set by parents or even by the teens themselves.  Yet teens are often still kept up or awaken by numerous texts and calls through all hours of the night that are not only unimportant, they are deemed “frivolous”.  Despite this obvious intrusion to their sleep schedule, most teens are reluctant to ignore a call or text with a non-response in fear that their friends will think they are angry or upset with them.

However, even with all this overwhelming addiction to constant connection and interaction with friends, it is still possible to set limits and achieve some disconnect from the barrage of conversation.  Here are 5 easy ground rules you and your child or teen can agree upon:

  • Agree upon acceptable hours of usage (these may be vary between weekdays and weekends/ school time and summer)

  • Leave any distracting technology in a family room or kitchen.  Maintain the bedroom as a place of relaxation, not disruption

  • Decide upon consequences to be used if the agreed upon usage times are violated

  • Many cell phone providers have technology in place to limit the hours of usage that parents can set up – this may be of use if usage times cannot be minded

  • Other third-party services, such as uKnowKids, provide intelligence systems that can help you monitor your teen’s hours of usage so that you can identify their most common usage time and start a conversation before a problem arises

While this is not an exhaustive list of what can be done to ensure your teen “shuts off” at night, these ground rules should create a solid starting point for a better sleep schedule, and ultimately better health for your teen. 

Parents – how do you get your teen to disconnect at night?  Tell us what works for you. 

-Article Contributed by Amber Wright 

Related Article: Is Your Child Struggling with Sleep? The Answer Might Be Simpler Thank You Think
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