The Demon Hiding in Your Child's Bedroomby RICHARD CLERICI on 08/18/15
A demon is defined as an agent of harm often disguised as something benign. The thought that something dangerous might be hiding in a child's room is a creepy and horrifying thought. Yet 50 % of teenagers own smart phones. And an increasing number bring those devices to bed. This has become hidden in our culture as it is increasingly accepted as normal behavior.
We are only now learning the dangers and addictive nature of smart phones. But one thing we do know is that 80% of teenagers are not getting the amount of sleep required to support them in normal/healthy growth and development. Is it any wonder that 11% of American children are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and that the number is rising?
Orfeu M. Buxton, a neuroscientist and assistant professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the phone in the bedroom could set off what he called “threat vigilance,” which is a type of anxiety that keeps you awake. “This means that you’re never off, you’re always watchful, which is a hallmark of insomnia,” he said.
In parenting we often say "pick your battles". This simply means that whenever we are tempted to control a child's behavior we need to assess the level of importance related to that control. If we try to control too much we invite resistance. This potential battle over "smart phones in the bedroom during sleep-time" is a battle worth waging. Smart phones in the bedroom during sleep-time sabotage a child's sleep in a manner that they can't possibly realize. It is almost impossible for a person to become aware of sleep fragmentation. These interruptions in sleep happen during sleep which is a period of limited awareness. In fact in overnight sleep studies we often see a person with sleep apnea have hundreds of arousals out of sleep with absolutely no reported awareness of those arousals. A child who has fragmented sleep due to the presence of a smart phone in the bedroom will have no awareness of the constant state of "threat vigilance" and the resulting "fragmented sleep". That's why parents need to be firm and unconditional when refusing to allow smart phones in the bedroom.
The positive take-away from this discussion is that by keeping smart phones out of your children's bedroom you can improve the quality of your child's sleep which will better support all aspects of her physical, emotional and cognitive health. Banning the smart phone demon from the bedroom can singlehandedly improve, your child's health, learning, moods and resulting behavior.
Smart-phones Sabotage Children's Sleep