Four-year-old Armand loved to play with a smartphone in bed for over an hour each night until he fell asleep. He became so used to this and so upset when his mother tried to take it away that his mother began making sure that the phone would run out of power each night around bedtime so that Armand would go to sleep earlier. However, Armand soon figured out a new way to get access to smartphones. He began acting like he was asleep until everyone else in his family had gone to bed, and then he would get up and search for a smartphone to use during the night. Armand soon became very sleep-deprived, and his mother had a very difficult time waking him up for school each morning.
If you want your child to be a great sleeper and avoid some of the most common bedtime battles, electronics really have no place in your child’s evening routines. Studies show that children who have a TV in their bedroom, for example, are more likely to get less sleep, fall asleep later than their peers, and have more nighttime fears. Smartphones deserve special mention because children can become so attached to these.
Studies show that smartphone use is likely to lead to less sleep, poorer sleep quality and more daytime sleepiness. For older kids, smartphones allow cyberbullies access to your child at bedtime. One of the best decisions parents can make is to remove all screens from children’s bedrooms and charge them under their supervision overnight.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also has two great resources on electronic use:
- a Fact and Tip Sheet on Children and Media and
- a tool called the Personalized Family Media Use Plan to help you think about and create goals and rules that are in line with your family’s values.
It can be very useful to establish some house rules for the use of electronics in your home. Here is a suggested contract you may wish to customize and adapt for your family.
OUR HOUSE RULES FOR ELECTRONIC DEVICES
We know if we use electronics less in the evening, we will have more time for being together as a family. We will have time for reading, playing board and card games, enjoying a variety of hobbies and creative activities, and, very importantly, sleeping!
We also know that using electronics before bed can interfere with sleep because the blue light from screens can make our brains think it is still day time.
We know that using electronic devices in bed is not a good idea because calls, messages, notifications, games, and videos are hard to ignore when everything is dark and quiet.
With this in mind, we agree to the following house rules for evening and nighttime use of electronics:
- We agree to block the blue light on our electronics from dinnertime on
- We agree to turn devices off one hour before bedtime and to leave them off until after breakfast
- We agree to leave our devices under our parent’s supervision overnight