Unplug Your Child Before Bed 

In anticipation of turning in their phones to Advisory every morning, it is evident that our students’ lives are fully integrated with technology and social media. They pour into the halls while sending that final morning text or taking one last glance at TikTok. For children and teens, regulating phone use can be quite difficult in general, but it becomes especially challenging at night without supervision. 

According to data from the Challenge Success-Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences administered to our Middle Schoolers in November 2022, 55 percent of Dawson students go to bed with their cell phones. Allowing someone whose decision-making is still developing to keep a device in their bedroom can increase the temptation to scroll when parents believe they are sound asleep. The act of browsing before trying to sleep may have a detrimental effect on their rest. Unbeknownst to kids, the blue light radiating from their device decreases their natural levels of melatonin, leaving – according to a new study – almost half of America’s teens sleep deprived. The level of sleep deprivation has grown as student phone ownership has increased.
Recommended Sleep for Youth
The CDC recommended hours of sleep by age graphic
Nationally, youths average about seven hours of sleep per night. This is alarming because the CDC recommends eight to 12 hours of sleep per night for healthy outcomes and the well-being of Middle School students.

Our kids are clearly missing this important mark, and, as the adults in their lives, we should be asking ourselves, what happens when students don't get an adequate amount of sleep?

Lack of Focus and Difficulty Learning
Social distractions from late-night phone sessions will directly impact your student's focus on their studies and their performance in school. Children’s frontal cortex, the area of the brain linked to decision-making, is still developing, and lack of sleep further impairs their abilities.

Healthline published research that states, “well-rested students were 44 percent more likely to demonstrate curiosity in learning new skills and information, 33 percent more likely to stay on top of their homework assignments, and 28 percent more likely to be invested in their academic performance.” Exhausted children, conversely, demonstrate irritability and inattention in their classes. 

Mental Health Struggles
Students who are sleep-deprived may also start to exhibit mental health struggles, including depression and anxiety, as the lack of sleep takes a toll on their ability to regulate their emotions. When they do not feel emotionally capable of taking on the daily challenges of a middle school student, it can result in outbursts, impulsivity, or excessive stress in the classroom.

Further, if students are prone to anxiousness or depression, scrolling social media apps at night can often lead to more worries, or result in comparing themselves to the falsely curated social media lives of others. Mental health and sleep deprivation can become a very unhealthy cycle. 
Negative Sports Performance and Injuries
Sleep is also very important for the health and safety of our student-athletes. Not only is it an essential part of athletic recovery and support for their growing bodies, sleep also primes an athlete for the next practice or game. If a student is sleep deprived, their reaction times and decision-making become slower, leading to a greater risk of mistakes and injuries. According to The Sleep Doctor, when student-athletes sleep less than eight hours, injuries were 70 percent more likely.

More Susceptible to Bullying or Being Bullied on a Device
In the evening and without supervision, children are more likely to participate in and receive unkind behaviors online. Many find it easier to type a damaging phrase behind a device than to say it directly to a person. Without fully developed decision-making skills, things can escalate quickly due to poor impulse control, negative peer influence, and emotional reactions. 

Unfortunately, many parents allow their children to engage on social media websites before they are developmentally prepared to deal with the challenges and decisions that come with it. The youngest age recommended for most platforms is 13. But even then, children need continuous coaching on acceptable behavior online and should receive periodic parental monitoring.

Students sitting at desks in their classroom with laptops open
How to Unplug Before Bed
It is important to discuss the negative effects of using a device at night with your children. They will be more open and receptive to new rules if they are taught the purpose behind them from a place of care and concern.

Some helpful next steps include:
  • Creating a new charging station for all devices in an area separate from your child’s bedroom. Many parents use their own bedrooms so they will know if their child accesses the devices during the night.
  • Having your child turn in their devices 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime to give them time to decompress and let the impacts of the phone’s blue light wear off. This will prime them for meaningful sleep and promote a healthier lifestyle.
  • Starting a bedtime routine and implementing a concrete lights-out time if you have not done so already.
If we support youth with the use of their devices and developing sleep patterns, we can help them have a healthy future.

Middle School Counselor

The Alexander Dawson School

The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain, an independent school located on 33-acres in the community of Summerlin, is Nevada’s first Stanford University Challenge Success partner school for students in early childhood through grade eight. Utilizing the unique Challenge Success framework, Dawson uses research-based strategies and programs that emphasize student academics, wellbeing, and a healthy school-life balance to create more engaged, motivated, and resilient learners and leaders. At Dawson, students achieve their individual potential while savoring life and meeting the challenges of the world.