A personal anecdote: I am writing this at 3:00 a.m. after being woken up by a text message on my wife’s cell phone (which she fell asleep with) at 1:38 a.m. The message was from our son who lives two time zones west of Houston. No emergency. He just wanted to tell my wife that he received something she emailed.
I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. So I started wondering if other people had this same problem, i.e., being awakened by electronic gadgets. To the google search bar! The Center on Media and Child Health lists it as a hot topic.
In Perspectives on Parenting, Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT and Lauren Bondy, MSW, suggest setting a digital curfew.
“The playground for tweens and teens today is electronic,” they say. “kids today are roaming, playing, forming relationships, testing limits, making mistakes, exploring, experimenting, and forming their identities and values in online digital spaces.”
Studies  show that sleep is interrupted when teens receive texts at night. Likewise, homework is interrupted and children become distracted when they receive notifications of a new chat messages, texts, or emails. To avoid a daily battle, the authors suggest that parents make a time when all media are off limits into part of the routine. Other recommendations the authors make include:
- Involving kids in establishing a media plan for their entire day, and agree on weekday and weekend hours.
- Allowing social media time only after homework is done or during homework breaks.
- Asking kids, “What’s the best place to charge your cell phone and keep it from distracting you?”
Cell phones are rapidly becoming an integral part of kids’ lives. According to research by C&R Research, 22 percent of young children own a cell phone (ages 6-9), 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84 percent of teens (ages 15-18. And cell phone companies are now marketing to younger children with colorful kid-friendly phones and easy-to-use features. According to market research firm the Yankee Group, 54 percent of 8 to12 year olds will have cell phones within the next three years.
These studies and observations suggest that growing and uncontrolled cell phone use among children can have a detrimental impact on their sleep which, in turn, can make them tired the next day and affect their ability to learn in school.
1. Irregular bedtime and nocturnal cellular phone usage as risk factors for being involved in bullying: A cross-sectional survey of Japanese adolescents by Tochigi, Mamoru;Nishida, Atsushi;Shimodera, Shinji;Oshima, Norihito;Inoue, Ken;Okazaki, Yuji;Sasaki, Tsukasa, 2012
3. Text messaging as a cause of sleep interruption in adolescents, evidence from a cross-sectional study by van den Bulck, Jan, 2003