Each school night, somewhere between 8:30 and 9 pm, my three teenagers begrudgingly leave their phones on what I lovingly refer to as my containment counter.
I wish I could say they go to bed after this transition of power, but it’s usually not the case. Someone often has to finish studying for a test or put together their practice bag for the next day or make a poster.
But, these “smart” phones—they stay on the counter until the next morning. And I often hover nearby to make sure no one is tempted to run off with one.
Sure, I’ll let them check an email from a teacher or text a friend about a ride, but for the most part, the scrolling part of their day is finito.
It’s not so much about trust. I mean, if my kids are going to choose to look at porn or communicate with strangers, they are just as likely to do it in the broad daylight then in the dark.
And I could use an app or the screen monitoring function on their iPhones, but I like that they have to detach from the tentacles of their devices.
Because there’s one thing I won’t negotiate about in my house, one thing I’ve learned that impacts my kids’ moods the most, one thing that changes the entire dynamic of my relationship with my kids, and it comes down to five little letters: SLEEP.
The research is clear: when teenagers have screens in their bedrooms, it interferes with their slumber. End of story. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that children ages six to 18 had an 88 percent higher risk of not sleeping enough when devices were in the bedroom and a 53 percent higher risk of getting a bad night’s sleep—and that’s when devices were in the bedroom just three nights a week.
Most nights, after my kids plug their phones in and head upstairs to get ready for bed, I see the notifications flying on their phones. Messages coming in through Instagram and emails and texts. They come in fast and furious from 9 p.m. until I head upstairs to bed. I’ve seen them as late as 11:30 p.m. and as early as 5 a.m. There is no way my daughters would be able to ignore that—even in sleep mode.
Sometimes I wonder, am I babying my kids too much? Should I let them regulate their phone usage? Am I the only one who sees this as a problem?
It’s tempting to make concessions.
But then, I think about how busy my girls are right now with academics and sports and social outings, how we are constantly trying to deal with feelings of anxiety and stress, and how we are trying to keep their overflowing emotions in check. With that in mind, my decisions are much simpler, my resolve stronger.
I recall that when my teens are pushed to their limits and don’t get enough sleep, my normally even-keeled kids lash out at me, complain more, and have less patience for everything in their life.
I also know that checking social media right before you go to sleep is unhealthy, and I hear the stories of kids waking up throughout the night to monitor the likes on a post, Snap back or just see what they missed.
As a mom of teenagers, I’ve accepted that social media is the new mall, and it’s their place to try on identities and figure out who they want to be in this world.
And I know it’s not all bad. Sometimes it promotes healthy behavior, like activism or interests, and sometimes it can be negative, like producing anxiety because they feel left out or in a constant state of FOMO.
So, I let my kids participate in the New World Order.
But only between the hours of 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
After that, we’re closed and, when possible, getting a few extra zzzs.