Screen Test: Is Using a Mobile Device Before Bed Bad For Your Teen?
However, despite all the harmful publicity mobile phones have received, some more recent research is questioning their perceived adverse effects on wellbeing and mental health. Researchers at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Health (RCPCH) found nothing harmful about the phones.
Instead, they’ve suggested that screen use could be damaging as it can interfere with more beneficial activities such as exercising, sleeping, and eating. The fact that youngsters may be spending more time on social media than on these activities may be the real root of the problem. Even so, the college supports the recommendations that children refrain from screen usage an hour before bed.
In support of screen time (or at least not entirely against it)
Not only this but recently, a study that appeared in the journal Psychological Science is disputing some of the claims made about the effects of pre-bedtime screen time on young people’s mental health and wellbeing-. The research analyzed the screen use of 17,000 teenagers across Britain, the US, and Europe and found no direct psychological link between their wellbeing and screens before bedtime. The study also determined that the impact of screen use was ‘minuscule’ compared to the other areas of the teens’ lives.
One of the major driving forces behind this new research was the consideration that previous research, which had been based on self-reported usage, was unreliable. The researchers felt heavy internet users could underestimate the time they spend, whereas non-frequent users may overestimate it. With this in mind, they combined time-use diaries and self-reported measures to provide more accurate estimations of users’ time online. They also applied medical best practices to keep the research impartial and prevent any modifications to data that could make them appear more sensational.
So if you’ve been thinking of putting a TV in your child’s room and planning to buy a bed from Bedstar or elsewhere that accommodates this, it appears that the impact of screens on a young person’s mental health and wellbeing could be down to how usage affects their lifestyle. It would seem the physical device itself is not necessarily to blame.
How to persuade your teens to get more sleep
As a parent, you worry about all things relating to your children. You worry about how they spend their time online (and who might be on the other side of the screen) and their wellbeing. Are they eating the right things? Are they eating enough, even?
You find yourself becoming concerned about their sleeping habits, too. They’re naturally rebellious and don’t like someone telling them what to do. That includes someone telling them when to go to bed, and they’ll happily stay up until after midnight if you let them (regardless of whether you let them).
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers between 14 and 17 should sleep between 8 and 10 hours per night, whereas younger children between 6 and 13 should get 9 to 11 hours. Young adults between 18 and 25 should look for 7 to 9 hours.
If they’re not fulfilling these quotas, however, the question is: how do you get them to sleep more?
Educate them on the effects of not sleeping enough.
You’ve got to educate them, but you have to make it relevant to their lifestyle, which you do by letting them know the shorter-term impact of not sleeping enough. Telling them that in 10 years, they’ll be fat and depressed because they don’t get enough sleep is likely to fall on deaf ears – if it’s not doing so already. If, however, you were to mention that it could affect their skin or harm their performance on the sports field or in exams, they’d be all ears.
Teach them time management skills.
Think back to when you were a teenager and the times you burnt the candle at both ends, either cramming for an exam or writing an essay. Remember how stressed you were at the time? You’d never want that for your teenagers, so teach them to manage their time more effectively. They may struggle to juggle studies with extracurricular activities, such as sports, drama, or other clubs, or working a part-time job. If you work out a schedule and they’re still having trouble, it’s time for them to drop an activity.
Persuade them to go easy on the caffeine.
It’s no secret that caffeine lends people an energy boost. It’s not just fizzy drinks or the more obvious caffeine-packed drinks, such as coffee, that contain the stimulant. Teens are prone to drinking Red Bull, Lucozade, and other sports or energy drinks to pep themselves up. Not all parents realise the amount of caffeine they contain. If you notice your teen drinking a considerable amount of caffeine-loaded beverages, make them cut down on them so they’ll sleep more.
Adjust your family’s routines.
You don’t have to control every aspect of your teenager’s life, but there are areas you can influence via the family routine, which you can adapt naturally to help them get more sleep. For instance, instead of walking the dog in the evening, switch this to the morning so that they don’t oversleep, nor will they have less time to study in the evening or do other activities that would force them to go to bed later.
Another thing you could do is shift around mealtimes. Eat your evening meal while it’s still light outside. If your teen fancies a snack, ensure it won’t disturb their stomach and, consequently, their sleep.
Collect their devices before they go to bed.
Although more coercive than persuasive, if you think your teen is spending too much time on their phone or tablet and staying up too late because of it, collect their devices before bed. Designate a basket or box where family members can store away their phones at a set time each evening. There’s no doubt your teen will try it on and make excuses for keeping the device(s) in their room, but stay firm and then return their devices in the morning. After all, it’s for their good, and although they might not see it like that, they’ll realise it further down the line.
From the research, it would appear that using screens before bedtime might not have the damaging effect they were first considered to have on teenagers’ mental health and wellbeing. Potentially, it’s a question of disruption rather than harm, which could affect their health.
That said, researchers still aren’t suggesting that parents give their teenagers carte blanche to use devices whenever it suits them. For as long as it does them, perhaps the answer would be to look out for your teenager and observe their lifestyle and behaviours. If you suspect screen usage before bedtime is detrimental, speak to them and implement the above measures.