[ image from newsfeed.time.com ]
At the Freshmen Orientation meeting Thursday night, principal Yannacone relayed a plea from the school nurse to parents: make sure your teens are getting enough sleep
. So below are some thoughts on sleep, partly recycled from a post last year on the same topic . . .
You probably already know that if teens don’t get enough sleep they are likely to be even moodier than usual (it’s possible!), to be slower, less coordinated, and more injury prone during sports (and driving), to perform at a lower level on tests and other academic measures, and to overeat. There are no known upsides to a sleepy teen.
But you might not know the exact hours of sleep recommended (as determined by experiments on actual teens): 8 1/2 – 9 1/4 hours. This surprises most parents, even those that think teens need more sleep than adults.
So if you have a teen who wakes up at 6:00 am, if you do the math that means that the lights should be turned off in his/her room no later than 9:15 pm. Given that target, you should probably ensure that usage of electronics ends at 8:15 pm — that allows one hour for the obligatory, post-electronics snacking, the brushing of the teeth, and the reading of books (those paper things). Principal Yannacone mentioned that some parents have an “electronics basket” into which all child cell phones, iPods, handheld games, etc.) go in the evening … and then that basket is taken into the parent’s bedroom (she mentioned you might want to lock your door). Your child will undoubtedly claim, “I just use my smartphone as an alarm clock” and “everyone else’s parents allow cell phones in their kids’ rooms,” so it’s best if you start an electronics policy at age 2, to head off those silly claims. If for some reason you missed that opportunity (likely), you really should reassert that control now (you pay for your kids phone, right?); teens will not voluntarily do any of the above.
Children, on average, use electronic media for 7 (seven!!) hours every day (source: American Academy of Pediatrics; graph) — that’s 7 hours not doing something else, of course. Kids used to play outside, play board games, read books, and, gasp, help out around the house.
As an FYI, the Obamas don’t allow their kids to watch television during school nights (the President probably has drones to enforce that rule). That policy is easier to set up years earlier, before your child thinks ad libitum television and gaming is a basic human right, and gets harder the longer you delay. If you’re on the fence: an experiment clearly showed that kids allowed to watch television or game during school nights do worse in school (article). That study also showed that if you allow your kids to watch R rated movies, the boys’ school work suffered even more. One option to consider is that weekday television could be documentaries only … your kids will throw a spectacular tantrum, but eventually they’ll grow tired of protests and might learn to like documentaries.
You should never, ever put televisions in your child’s bedroom. Of course, many kids bypass that by asking their parents for the logins for services like Netflix, Tivo, etc. … which allows them to use computers as televisions. Don’t give them those passwords. The sneaky little Devils will also get the movies/series using (illegal) download services, so you should never just assume they are in their rooms “listening to music”. Fun fact: 20% of infants have televisions in their rooms these days (source) … not surprising so many kids grow up addicted.
If you’d like to listen to a radio program (short) on teenagers’ sleep needs, here you go: here you go.