I’ve written at length about the dilemma of the teenager: how large amounts of homework and early school start times prevent adequate sleep, leading to problems with mood, academic achievement, safety, and many other issues. Many teens go through live in haze that one scientist has described as social jet lag, consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, napping, and worsening their chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
One of the arguments marshalled by opponents of later school start times is that this issue is the fault of the teens. Research has shown, however, that teenagers can’t simply move their bed times earlier for physiologic reasons related to their body clocks.
This does not let teens or families off the hook, however. In an article in the New York Times this week by Laura M. Holson, she describes teenagers staying up late on their phones and computers– which some teens refer to as “vamping”
“You want to seem as cool as possible so you will post something at 2 in the morning, to just be like, ‘Oh, I’m part of this cool-kid group,’ ” one friend said, before Ms. Fagbenle added, “My friends and I see the same thing down our newsfeeds, posts about #breakingnight, also known as #notsleepingatall and #vamping.”
In the article, one teen is described as taking naps so that he can stay up late. Another mother has frequently found her 13 year daughter up late on a messaging app.
To be frank, I have little patience for this in my clinic. Parents need to send a strong message to teens that consumption of social media and use of electronic devices after bedtime is NOT OK. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Set a good example. Do you bring your phone into bed with you? As a society, I think it is time for us to put our phones down.
- From a young age, make your child’s bedroom a cool, calm, and quiet zone during sleep periods. And for goodness’ sake, get that television out of your kid’s room. Now.
- Lock down your internet so it is not available to your children during night-time hours.
- If your child needs his or her computer to complete homework, use software like f.lux to reduce blue/white light wavelengths which can delay the body clock.
- All electronic devices out of the bedroom after bedtime. No exceptions, including for you. Lock them in a drawer if you have to.
If your children are not yet teenagers, encouraging healthy use of screens and electronics from a young age will make this considerably easier for you.
One final note: If your teenager consistently cannot fall asleep before a very late hour, is routinely difficult to arouse or late for school, and tends to sleep all day during vacations and weekends, he or she may have delayed sleep phase syndrome or another sleep disorder and should be evaluated by a sleep expert.
For more on managing screens in kids, here are articles on how to go on a light diet, and how to get phones out of the bedroom.
Parents: do you struggle with this with your children? Do you struggle with regulating this in yourself? Anything that has helped at home?
Teens: what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you struggle to put down your phone?