Everyone’s heard of sleepwalking. Will we soon be hearing of sleeptexting? A recent study shows that teens are texting long after they’ve called it a day. According to research conducted by the JFK Medical Center, the average teen sends 34 texts after going to bed for the night — nearly 250 per week — keeping them awake for as many as 4 extra hours.
Although the numbers were higher than I would have expected, I can’t say that I was surprised. While virtually everyone is far more attached to their mobile devices these days, none seem more connected to their hand-helds than teens.
But the number that concerned me most was actually a low one — as the age of the 40 students who participated in the study ranged from 22 all the way down to 8. Which made me wonder — as the father of a 9 year-old girl, what can I do to prevent my daughter from becoming a sleeptexter?
It will no doubt be difficult. Data from past studies, including ones conducted by Nielsen and Kaiser, suggests that teens would rather text with their friends than interact with their family. So much so that texting has apparently turned into the new Boogie Man. It’s keeping our kids up at night.
Dr. Peter Polos, the lead researcher at the Sleep Disorder Center at the JFK Medical Center, points out that “texting and games [played on a cell phone] are worse than TV because they are interactive.” It’s that interaction which turns a message or two into a 4-hour conversation with multiple people. The sleep deprivation caused by these social exchanges has been linked to conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and difficulties in learning to name but a few.
Dr. Polos recommends separating your teen from his or her phone as “removing these distractions would maximize children’s sleep time.” Sound advice, but, as we all know, teens are pretty resourceful. So unless you invest in the uncrackable-safe, your teens may still, indeed, find a way to reclaim their digital conduit to social inclusion.
It seems to me that the real remedy (for those with children young enough) may lie in prevention. Our daughter doesn’t yet have her own cell phone, though she does frequently borrow one of ours. But not to place a call. Instead, her inclination is to text. And I’m going to take some of the blame on that one.
My nose is buried in my BlackBerry far more than I’d like to admit. Just last night, I got busted checking email by the glow of a Halloween-party bonfire. How am I going to discourage my kids from chronic texting if I can’t even put my phone down for the duration of a family activity? Do as I say, not as I do simply doesn’t work.
So, oddly, a study on teen texting practices has this parent of a soon-to-be teen rethinking his. Maybe if I make a concerted effort to stay off my phone while I’m at home, my kids will, too.
Still, don’t be surprised if you come to my house in a few years only to find an uncrackable safe sitting conspicuously atop the kitchen table. You know. Just in case.
More Strollerderby posts from John Cave Osborne:
Story of Teenage Drug Addiction — Henry’s Story — to Air on TV
Department of Education — Teachers Can Be Held Accountable for Bullying
Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld Calls Work-Life Balance Misnomer
Ad Campaign to Sell Dads on Fatherhood
Six Tips for Making Your Children’s Virtual World a Safer One