Monday, March 28, 2011

Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Texting.

If I've told you once, I've told you a million texting after bedtime!!!! I have been saying this for years, and yesterday The Boston Globe said it too.

Here are a few quotes from teens that were interviewed for this article:"When I'm texting someone I don't feel alone." "When you don't have your phone, you feel incomplete." "It's impolite not to respond if someone is coming to you with their problems." One teen interviewed said that she gets as many as 100 texts while she is in bed. "I just don't feel like myself if I don't have my phone near me or I'm not on it."

Read these and weep parents. We have created texting crazed monsters who no longer worry what's under their beds or hiding in their closet at bedtime, but instead we have created teens moving into adulthood who are terrified to be alone. This is not a healthy thing, either psychologically or physically. Adulthood requires us to have a confidence in our ability to deal with complex emotions: depression, anxiety, loneliness,  and stress All the things that challenge us as we deal with career, family, and transitions of life. Adolescence is a training ground for developing coping mechanisms for managing all of this. Of course reaching out to friends is an important strategy. Learning how to develop strong support systems is the main event of teen life. But it is equally important to know that we can also depend on ourselves in looking for a safe harbor. Look no further than a sleeping baby who sucks their thumb and hugs their teddy bear on their way to slumber.

Physically speaking, this is a no-brainer. Teens are just not getting enough sleep. Michael Rich, and expert at Children's Hospital says:"Children who text late into the night do not fall asleep as well and they don't enter the deep sleep of Stage 4 REM sleep, which is crucial to moving experiences and lessons of the day from short-term to long-term memory." So forget about academic tutors, SAT tutors, all a waste of money unless you can get your teen to sleep!

When I speak to parents about this issue, and simply state, no cellphones to bed, the floodgates open with comments from parents like:" but they use their phone as an alarm clock." or "I'll never be able to get their phone away from them." them an alarm clock, and who is in charge here?????

Getting your teen to accept that sleeping and cellphone use do not go together like two peas in a pod will be a challenge. Do a little homework first and look at your teen's phone bill. See if they are texting at night. If they are you have your ammunition, it they haven't been texting at night...yet, you are ahead of the game, cause it will happen.  If you go into battle about this, you will make a difficult situation worse. Do not approach your teen with a " I'm taking your phone away at bedtime, you're not sleeping, its my phone, get over it!!! This will not engender cooperation. Instead use this "I get it" moment. I get how important it is for you to have your phone with you in bed. I know you always like to be a thumb away from all your friends in case they need you, or if something is going on that is a "must know." but here is the thing, you need to sleep, you need to give your brain a rest, and you need learn and develop confidence in your ability to get yourself to sleep. I know this will be an adjustment, but I have complete confidence in you." Expect resistance, anger, and hostility. It will not be a pretty sight. No need to get defensive, just understand from their point of view, give a little shoulder shrug, and you're done.

Cell phone companies now have a service for a few extra bucks a month that will disable the outgoing and incoming calls/texts for a specific period of time, like 11 PM to 6 AM for example. I recommend this approach rather than physically taking the phone away so as to avoid a power struggle like: "Time to put the phone to bed." and then from your teen, "oh please just a few more minutes..." And we know how that will go. And for your teens who say this is their alarm clock, they get their alarm clock.

Stand firm on this one, it is matter of health!

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