How a digital shutdown can help your child concentrate at school
The digital takeover has well and truly arrived. Most children will possess a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, and in many cases, they will use each of these at least once a day.
Digital devices such as these can be helpful when used in the correct manner. Phones help us stay in touch with our kids when they are not at home, while tablets and computers can help with education, allowing children to access a mine of useful information that can aid their studies.
I have now started to put my own rules in place when it comes to my children wanting to use ‘screens’ as i call them. They have to match playing time with screen time. So if they want 30 minutes on the computer they must play or do some story writing for 30 minutes. I’m surprised how well it’s working and my daughter is really getting into writing stories.
When these devices become harmful, however, is when they impact on our children’s sleeping patterns, which in turn starts to take its toll on their performance at school.
One sound piece of all-round parenting advice that we are increasingly hearing from scientists and sleep experts, is to enforce a ‘digital shutdown’ before bed time. What does this mean? Well, it relates to a set window of time before bed, during which no digital devices should be switched on – in fact, they should be kept out of the bedroom altogether.
Why is this important? There’s a growing body of evidence which suggests that electronics in the bedroom, especially when used just before bed time, can have a detrimental effect on the quality and length of the sleep we enjoy each night.
To give you the scientific explanation, according to the Sleep Foundation: “There is robust scientific data documenting the role of light in promoting wakefulness. Photoreceptors in the retina sense light and dark, signalling our brain about the status of the outside world and aligning our circadian rhythms (centred in a small region of the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus) to the external day-night cycle.”
As far as children go, there seems to be a growing ‘connectivity culture’ at a time when they should be sleeping, or trying their best to get to sleep. Checking social media updates, watching videos and talking with friends are normal bed time activities for some, but this could be resulting in children that are worn out come the morning, and unable to absorb information in class.
By asking children to leave their phones on charge downstairs, you can immediately take away the potential for late night light exposure. Tablets and other computers can also be left in a study room or downstairs. In order for them to enjoy the best possible sleep, your kid’s room should have the ‘bat cave effect’ – with very little light emitted, and ideally very little noise.
Like any new rule, it might take some enforcing, especially if the child in question is used to being surrounded by digital devices. However, once the routine kicks in, they will accept having to wait until the next day to see what they have missed on Facebook – you might even see a change in habits, with smartphones being checked every hour, instead of seemingly every second!
In the long run, you’ll begin to see the benefits as your child’s energy, awareness and concentration improve thanks to a return to natural bed time periods, which are more conducive to good sleep.