16 October 2017

Student Wellbeing: Sleep and the Media

One of the fastest-moving revolutions in history is taking place in your home, on your son's computer; just consider Facebook, viewed by a staggering 4 billion people yet only six years old. But most parents have no idea what's being sent and received in there. Previous generations would have called it 'living in his own little world' but this little world has become global, with dangers to match its excitement.

A practical parental response, but one of the hardest to achieve, is to get technology out of the bedroom and into shared living space. This helps deprive the cyber world of its kids-only mystique, but my motivation is more mundane: It helps them get enough quality sleep. This will reap manifold rewards when it comes to their development and wellbeing.

Teenagers need between 8-10 hours each night. There's no such thing as a 'sleep bank'; even if a boy had 12 hours sleep last night, he won't get away with 7 hours tonight. Parents need to stick to a routine, making evenings as predictable as possible and enforcing hard and fast rules about digital media in the bedroom.

The intrusion of mobile phones, laptops and iPads means students are getting less shuteye with far-reaching consequences. About half the boys in Year 8 have their own TVs. Most have mobile phones, iPads and laptops. All are quite seductive, chewing up a lot of time, especially sleeping time.

Being young and healthy, sometimes boys can seemingly stay up all night and be fine the next day. But that's an illusion. What you can do is help them see the connection between their sleeping and how they're feeling during the day. How well are they able to focus, not get distracted and take in what's happening in the classroom? All too often, electronic media are to blame when they're off their game.

Shauna Lipscombe

Senior School Psychologist