Managing technology use and the importance of good sleep

23 October 2020

Managing technology use and the importance of good sleep

Because I am concerned for the holistic wellbeing of our students, a while ago my eye was drawn to a newspaper article on the importance of rest and sleep. The article by Sean Parnell in the Australian acknowledged the importance of sleep and regular exercise for everyone but gave some specific advice for children.

Disturbingly, the article said that “the average teen gets only 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night, instead of the recommended 8 to 10. This threatens their mental well-being, with higher rates of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem among sleep deprived teens, sometimes lasting a lifetime.”

The article went on to give some wise advice. “There are things teens and their parents can do to get more sleep. During the day, try to be physically active and socialise with friends and family. At night, set a regular bedtime and read a book or magazine instead of scrolling through social media right before bed.”

Researcher Sharon Horwood contended that teenagers who habitually check social media out of habit for fear of missing out on some news about friendship groups, and teenagers who habitually watch videos and play games, are likely to be also depriving themselves of sleep. In my view, it is important for children of any age to have clear limits and boundaries around their use of devices at home e.g. no devices in the bedroom and a maximum number of hours per week using social media and playing games. 

In a world of busyness where a substantial number of people seem to want to maximise every minute of every day and become dependent on social media because of FONK (fear of not knowing what's going on in other people's lives) it is good to try and be countercultural and realise that our lives can be enriched by not needing to know every detail that is posted on social media.

While the article I read addressed the issues of teenagers and technology, I am increasingly concerned about the excessive and inappropriate use of technology by primary school students. Children as young as 8 spending hours a day playing games on devices will be of little benefit to them and could be harmful. Time spent on a device is time not spent developing meaningful relationships with others, reading a book, exercising or contributing to the needs of others.

It disturbs me to hear of 10 year olds who are given their own iPhone with a large data plan and no internet filtering software. From time to time parents with primary school aged children ask me when they should give their son or daughter a phone. My answer is to resist giving their child any type of mobile phone for as long as they can. I realise that this is easier said that done. When parents say no to a mobile phone or restrict access to devices, children often respond that EVERYONE has a mobile or EVERYONE is allowed to do x, y, z with a device except for me. Parents may be described as THE STRICTEST PARENTS on the face of the planet. I encourage parents to stand firm. If they do feel it is necessary for their child to have a phone, buy one that does not have internet access. I struggle to see why any student needs an internet enabled phone.

Managing technology use isn’t easy and I trust that our parents and teachers will be able to work together to help students to benefit from what technology has to offer without being controlled or harmed by it.

Mr Brett Hartley

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