According to a study conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, June 2017, almost half of all children are taking digital devices to bed (43%) and one in four of these children report having sleep problems. Cyber Expert and author, Dr Kristy Goodwin, believes these figures are conservative. ‘I think the problem is much bigger. Given that screens can have a really negative impact on our kids’ sleep, it’s essential that parents, educators and health professionals teach today’s kids how to use screens appropriately and enforce boundaries around when and where screens can be used,’ she says.Dr Kristy says there are many issues when letting kids and teens take their devices to bed;
- Sleep delays – tablets and smartphones emit blue light and this can cause sleep delays. Children’s eyes are still developing and haven’t yet developed the protective pigments that enable them to filter out some of the harmful blue light. Blue light suppresses the body’s production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates their sleep-wake cycle) which kids need to produce to fall asleep quickly and easily.
- Interrupted sleep cycles– if children have digital devices in their bedroom, the alerts and notifications can wake them up and interrupt their sleep cycles. A typical sleep cycle takes approximately 90–110 minutes to complete – four stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and one stage of rapid eye movement (REM). If kids are being woken multiple times each night they’re not completing a sufficient number of sleep cycles (most kids and teens need between 4 and 6 sleep cycles per night).
- Night waking– viewing scary or violent content can cause nightmares, particularly amongst younger children under 10 years of age. While many parents wisely restrict their kids’ exposure to violent movies and/or video games, sometimes we overlook the scary or disturbing images or video that are featured on TV news programs and distributed via social media.
What can parents do?
Dr Kristy advises banning devices in bedrooms for kids and teens. ‘I don't believe kids or teens should ever have any devices in bedrooms. It isn’t just the sleep issues that put them at risk. We know that most cyberbullying, sexting and access to pornography takes place at night because devices are in bedrooms AND because of the way kids' and teens' brains are wired - their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking and impulse control) doesn't work at night and their emotional brain is working instead. So they're wired to be impulsive, take risks and be emotional and this means that they can make mistakes,’ she explains. ‘If your teens require their smartphone to use as an alarm clock there are ways around this; buy them an actual alarm clock or better still, install parental controls on their devices to disable the internet during bedtime.’
Family Zone enables parents to choose when their kid’s internet access is disabled, ensuring a quality night sleep each and every night. Our team of Cyber Experts, including Dr Kristy, are also here to support parents by providing tailored control settings and ongoing advice on managing the many issues and risks associated with online activity.
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