How to Keep Your Child From Using their Phone At Night
If your child has a problem with using their phone too much, especially at night, this could affect their health, grades, and social life!
For kids who use their phones in bed when they should be falling asleep, the consequences can be far-reaching. While this may seem like a thorny problem at first glance, there are a number of approaches and tools available to parents to help make sure that phones don’t interfere with sleep.
Why Smartphones and Bedtimes Are a Bad Combo
Smartphones have several negative effects when used for any purpose close to bedtime – especially when it comes to growing kids and teens. Here are some of the problems with allowing smartphone use right up until your kids fall asleep:
- Less Sleep: It’s no surprise that the bright screens of today’s smartphones – along with the endless distractions of social media, games, and memes – are keeping kids up late. Remember, teens require at least 8 hours of sleep per night for healthy development. The distraction and brightness of the screen can get in the way all too easily: Even when kids fall asleep, there’s often a chance of a new text or post waking them up again, starting the process all over.
- Poor Sleep Cycles: Bright smartphones don’t just make your kids tired in the morning – the effects of all that light all confuse the brain, which produces more melatonin as a result and throws the whole sleep cycle off balance. This makes it more difficult to get sleep, as well as pay attention during the day.
- Poor Grades: What happens when your kids can’t pay attention during the day? You guessed it – grades start to fall over time. That loss of focus can cost your kids dearly in school when the time comes to take exams and learn new skills in class. Without enough sleep, school performance will suffer noticeably: Keep in mind that important social time between classes will also be affected, so it’s not beneficial for your kids’ personal lives, either.
- Worse Health: People deprived of sleep tend to suffer from compromised immune systems, getting sick more easily. Other effects include headaches, caffeine dependency, and even attitudes that can mimic ADHD… when really your child or teen just needs to get more sleep at night.
Options for Limiting Nighttime Phone Use
Limiting smartphone-use at night can pose problems to parents who have not taken the time to think about guidelines or rules regarding this issue. Teens are likely to complain about privacy, while parents are likely to worry about the effects of sleep deprivation as their child texts at such late hours. It’s a recipe for an unpleasant showdown, but this can be averted by smartly limiting phone use at night. Potential solutions include:
Family Smartphone Contracts: A smartphone contract is a popular method of controlling phone use throughout the family, and when done correctly with clear rules and open discussion, creating these contracts can be valuable. Specific rules should pertain to smartphone use around lights-out, such as “phones down at 9:00 PM.” These contracts work best when directly tied to consequences and rewards – such as allowance, time allowed with friends, and extracurricular activities. Make sure that failure to obey the contract will result in punishment, but also that obeying the contract comes with benefits.
Alternative Activities: Set up family activities and events before bedtime so that kids will be less tempted to zone out with their phones and more likely to just want to go sleep. Family games and special activities may work better with younger kids than with teens. For teens, try enrolling in programs or events in the evening so that your kids can spend face-to-face time with their friends – making those phone contracts easier to follow.
Wi-Fi Controls: Most major net providers and wireless router manufacturers provide options for parental controls over the home Wi-Fi network. If you are not using these controls, they provide an excellent option for smartphone use parameters. Even basic software features should allow you to block specific sites (like Facebook) or categories of sites (social media, pornographic, etc.) at specific times of the day, such as 9pm-7am. This allows you to create a tailored control set that ensures your kids won’t sneak the wrong kind of smartphone use in while in bed. (Note that this will not, of course, affect your neighbor’s’ Wi-Fi, so there are some workarounds for persistent teens!)
Prepaid Minutes: If you prefer a more direct approach, then consider providing your teen with a phone that is limited by prepaid minutes. This won’t directly control what your teen does with a smartphone, but it will help teach them personal responsibility with the knowledge that if they go over their limit, they’ll have to wait until next month to use the phone again. This can be an effective way of giving your teen freedom while still making sure they get to bed on time.
Of course, everyone is different and some teens have no problem putting their phones away and falling asleep – especially after a long day! Always talk to your child about their smartphone use in order to build a strong relationship between the both of you.