Whitney Fleming, a mom and writer at Playdates on Fridays, recently shared her hack that keeps her kids from sitting on their cell phones all night long, and it's pretty brilliant. In a Facebook post, she explained her thought process behind her "containment counter" hack, and how it works for her family.
"This is what I lovingly refer to as my containment counter," she wrote. "Each school night, somewhere between 8:30 and 9 p.m., my three teenagers begrudgingly leave their phones here. I wish I could say they go to bed after this transition of power, but it's usually not the case. Someone often has to finish studying for a test or put together their practice bag for the next day or make a poster. But, these smartphones stay on the counter until the next morning. And I often hover nearby to make sure no one is tempted to run off with one."
Whitney explained that while she allows her kids to fire off a quick message or two if needed, they're not permitted to bring their phones up to bed.
"I'll let them check an email from a teacher or text a friend about a ride, but for the most part, the scrolling part of their day is finito," she said. "It's not so much about trust. I mean, if my kids are going to choose to look at porn or communicate with strangers, they are just as likely to do it in the broad daylight then in the dark. But the one thing I won't negotiate about in my house, the one thing I've learned that impacts my kids' moods the most, the one thing that changes the entire dynamic of my relationship with my kids, comes down to five little letters: SLEEP."
"I'll let them check an email from a teacher or text a friend about a ride, but for the most part, the scrolling part of their day is finito."
And she has a point. Everyone — especially kids in this age group — need to consistently get a good night's rest. "The research is clear: when teenagers have screens in their bedrooms, it interferes with their sleep," she explained. "A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children ages 6 to 18 had an 88 percent higher risk of not sleeping enough when devices were in the bedroom and a 53 percent higher risk of getting a bad night's sleep — and that's when devices were in the bedroom just three nights a week."
And Whitney has seen with her own eyes how distracting her children's phone can be after dinner. "Most nights, after my kids plug their phones in and head upstairs to get ready for bed, I see the notifications flying on their phones," she said. "Messages coming in through Instagram and emails and texts. They come in fast and furious from 9 p.m. until I head upstairs to bed. There is no way my daughters would be able to ignore that — even in sleep mode."
Although Whitney's second-guessed herself before, she's still confident she's making the right decision.
"Sometimes I wonder, am I babying my kids too much? Should I let them regulate their phone usage? It's tempting to make concessions. But then, I think about how busy my girls are right now with academics and sports and social outings, how we are constantly trying to deal with feelings of anxiety and stress, and how we are trying to keep their overflowing emotions in check," she explained. "With that in mind, my decisions are much simpler, my resolve stronger. I recall that when my teens are pushed to their limit and don't get enough sleep, my normally even-keeled kids lash out at me, complain more, and have less patience for everything in their life. I also know that checking social media right before you go to sleep is unhealthy, and I hear the stories of kids waking up throughout the night to monitor the likes on a post, Snap back, or just see what they missed."
While Whitney's aware that there are some benefits to social media, she knows there's also some downsides, too.
"As a mom of teenagers, I've accepted that social media is the new mall, and it's their place to try on new identities and figure out who they want to be in this world," she wrote. "And I know it's not all bad. Sometimes it promotes healthy behavior, like activism or interests, and sometimes it can be negative, like producing anxiety because they feel left out or in a constant state of FOMO. So, I let my kids participate in the New World Order, but only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. After that, we're closed, and when possible, getting a few extra zzzs."