Should Bedrooms Be No-Phone Zones for Parents?

Research suggests parents model poor power-down behaviour for their teens.

Posted Sep 16, 2019

Stocksnap
Source: Stocksnap

I'm creating this post as a follow-up to one I wrote a couple of years ago entitled, "Should Bedrooms Be No-Phone Zones for Teens?" where I offered three ways parents could help their teens log off before turning in for the night. As an adjunct to the recommendations I offered then, I argue that one of the best ways parents can support their teens to shut-down to get more shut-eye is to act as role models. 

Unfortunately, research shows that, as a whole, we aren't exactly doing that. In fact, a report published earlier this year by Common Sense Media called, "The New Normal: Parents, Teens, Screens, and Sleep in the United States" revealed that 62% of parents polled said they keep their devices within reach of their bed at night and 61% check their device within 30 minutes of falling asleep. 

Unfortunately, these habits contradict most of the sleep hygiene recommendations out there. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation suggests "setting a digital curfew one to two hours before bedtime (the earlier, the better)."

And parents' behaviours aren't going unnoticed by their kids. In fact, 39% of teens felt their parent spent too much time on their mobile device and 38% of teens felt their parent was addicted.  An even larger number of parents themselves (45%) felt personally addicted to their device - an 18-point increase since 2016.

My greatest concern with these stats? Teens who thought a parent was addicted to their device were more likely to believe that this hurt and interfered with their relationship. 

Positive relationships between parents and their teens have been associated with things like adolescent self-esteem and happiness, and lower levels of emotional and physical distress (1). It's just not worth it to let a screen get in the way of that. 

But role-modelling healthy device behaviour is easier said than done. We live in a digital world. I, too, am guilty of checking my phone before bed. And, although my daughter is only one year old, and (thankfully) still pretty disinterested in my devices, it's only a blink of an eye until she's a teen and we're battling over screen time too. 

So, as I asked in my original post, what's a parent to do?

Limit cell phone use

Use apps that track hours spent online. Power down each night at a certain time. Have your partner hide your phone if you have to. Anything to get you offline for longer to connect with your teen. 

Create a family culture of sleep hygiene

Like I suggested before, model healthy pre-bedtime behaviours (reading, taking a bath, playing a game - Monopoly, anyone?). And, designate a communal spot in the house where everyone can deposit their phones before tucking in for the night. 

Prepare for excuses and challenges 

If you use your cell phone for an alarm, buy an analog phone. Replace digital behaviour with other activities (again, Monopoly, anyone?). It takes about two months to form a new habit (2), so stick with it.

References

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (2009). Marital quality and parent-adolescent relationships: Effects on adolescent and young adult well-being. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/marital-quality-and-parent-adolescent-relationships-effects-adolescent-and-young-adult-well-being

2. Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009 doi. 10.1002/ejsp.674

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