Technology Takes its Toll on Teen Sleep

With many teens occupying bedrooms equipped to the rafters with technology, kids are getting less sleep than ever, according to the results of a 2006 poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

The poll found that only 20% of adolescents get the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights, and 45% sleep less than eight hours on school nights.

Attention-stealing devices like televisions, computers, MP3 players and cell phones take a good chunk of the blame. Check out these stats:

  • Watching television is the most popular activity (76%) for adolescents in the hour before bedtime, while surfing the internet/instant-messaging (44%) and talking on the phone (40%) are close behind.
  • Boys are more likely to play video games (40%) while girls are more likely to talk on the phone (51%) in that time.
  • Nearly all adolescents (97%) have at least one electronic item – such as a television, computer, phone or music device – in their bedroom. On average, 6th-graders have more than two of these items in their bedroom, while 12th-graders have about four.

Most sleep experts say it is unwise to use a computer immediately before bedtime because the bright computer screen may affect the biological rhythms that govern sleep. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology further suggests that performing “exciting” computer tasks, such as playing a video game, may actually suppress the production of melatonin, the so-called “sleep hormone.”

Learn about the dangers of sleep deprivation and what you can do as a parent >>

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Choose Your Battles

Parenting a tween or teen can make any grown-up feel like a two-year-old again – you know, where every other word out of your mouth is NO?

“No, you can’t have a TV in your room.” “No, you can’t go to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.” “No, you can’t get a nose piercing.”

The next time your child asks you something that ordinarily would respond in a hearty, NO, stop and remember this axiom of parenting… “Say no when you have to and yes when you can.”

For instance, let’s say Jane wants to dye her hair a lovely shade of fuchsia. She’s got the money to do it and “all my friends are doing it, too.” Now, you know that more than likely she’s going to hate it, and you will probably hate it, too.

But think about it… Is this an action that is going to cause her any kind of physical harm? Will it have a long-term impact on her mental health? Some of her peers will likely make fun of her, but she can always dye her hair back, or wait for it to grow out. Think of it as a learning experience.

Not every general wins every battle. The goal is to win the war… to turn out a basically good kid who has the tools to be healthy, happy and gainfully employed eventually. And every good general knows sometimes you have to give up some less important ground in order to achieve victory in the long run.

Sometimes it can even be fun to give in on something silly. Maybe it’s having dessert before dinner, or letting them stay up late on a school night to watch a movie with you that you can talk about the next day.

Read more about the importance of saying Yes to your teen >>