Sleep is essential for youngsters, but it’s hard to catch Zs with a phone in your hand. According to a new Ofcom report, however, that’s exactly what many kids are doing: more than half of parents with young teens let them take their devices into their bedrooms when they should be heading into the land of nod. In fact, 71% of 12-15 year-olds who own phones take them to bed.
The report, based on surveys with more than 2,000 parents and kids, also found – perhaps unsurprisingly for those who’ve spent time with teenagers recently – that more than a third of the 12-15 year-olds found it difficult to moderate their screen time. That figure is up 28% on the year before.
“It’s hard to take things off your kids, so a good proportion of 12-15 year olds are taking their phone to bed,” Yih-Choung Teh, one of the report’s authors, told Sky News. “I think it’s something families should be having a discussion about [in] ensuring that our kids have healthy lives.”
Those discussions might not be easy (or even civil, depending on your teen), which is why we asked HuffPost UK readers if they let their kids – of all ages – take their phones to bed. And the answer was unanimous: Absolutely not.
When you discuss unsupervised phone use with parents, they express a number of concerns: what their children might stumble upon online, what they are searching for or playing, and also, perhaps most importantly, whether their phone might be disturbing their sleep. And with reason: a recent study by the University of Sheffield and Silentnight found that children with phones, tablets or computers in their rooms got a whole hour’s less sleep, on average, than those without.
So how can we prize our kids’ phones away from them, when they’re so used to having it stuck in their hands? It’s important that parents stress the effect that constant communication can have on sleep, advises psychologist Dr Linda Papadopolous from Internet Matters. That’s particularly the case with older children. “This will help them make more informed choices about physically disconnecting by switching off at night,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Sleep is crucial to a child’s emotional development, and therefore if you spot signs that your child’s wellbeing is affected by their device, have a conversation with them about why you are concerned and consider introducing parameters such as ‘no tech once the lights go out’,” he says. For younger kids, it’s best to start the habit of “no phones in the bedroom” early.
Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan from Silentnight, explains that parents need to make it clear to kids that phones do not belong in their bedrooms. “Children and teenager’s brains are still developing, and therefore they need the right amount of sleep, and deep sleep, to ensure that they are energised and are able to concentrate,” she argues.
“As parents, we need to be the change, and act as role models. This means we also need to not be on our phones late at night.”