Like most parents of today, writer and mom to three teenagers Whitney Fleming, had to find a way to reduce her kids’ exposure to mobile screens. So, she came up with a hack.
In a recent social media post, the mother talked about the ‘containment counter’, where her kids have to leave their phones every night before going to bed.
“Each school night, somewhere between 8:30 and 9 pm, my three teenagers begrudgingly leave their phones…these ‘smart’ phones….they 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,” she wrote, posting a picture of the above mentioned counter.
Fleming also goes on to explain the reason behind making her kids follow the rule. It’s not so much about censorship, she explains, especially when monitoring your child’s online activity can be quite a challenge. “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 than in the dark,” she explained.
For Fleming, this ‘containment counter’ exercise is aimed at achieving a specific goal — sleep — as she writes, “it impacts my kids’ moods the most, the one thing that changes the entire dynamic of my relationship with my kids…”
Several studies in the past have shown how excessive screen time can impact a child’s sleep, which, in turn, is related to their physical, mental health and wellbeing. For instance, kids who check social media more than thrice a day suffer disruptions in sleep, among other issues, leading to psychological distress, according to a study.
Fleming also cited another study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which found that “children aged 6 to 18 had an 88 percent higher risk of not sleeping enough when devices were in the bedroom and a 53 per cent higher risk of getting a bad night’s sleep and that’s when devices were in the bedroom just three nights a week.”
Chronic insomnia is also likely to increase the risk of behavioural problems and even obesity.
Talking about how lack of sleep affects her kids, Fleming expressed, “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.”
About the inevitability of social media, the mother added, “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. And I know it’s not all bad. Sometimes it promotes healthy behaviour, 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 am to 8:30 pm. After that, we’re closed, and when possible, getting a few extra zzz’s.”