Screen Time and Sleep: Help Your Teen Adopt Healthy Habits
With the return to school comes the challenge of getting teens back into a healthy nighttime routine. In many cases, this means parents setting boundaries on screen time, especially late in the evenings. Imposing and enforcing those rules, however, can be easier said than done.
A growing body of research has found strong links between sleep, mental health and screen time in teens and tweens (pre-adolescent children around the ages of 10 to 12). Amid a youth mental health crisis in which approximately 42% of adolescents are suffering from mental health issues, teens are also getting too little sleep. While both daytime and evening screen use may affect sleep patterns, research points to bedtime use as having the greatest impact on a teen’s sleep. A lack of sleep and the heightened activity involved in the consumption of social media late at night can exacerbate or even trigger anxiety and depression, according to experts.
So what can we do to pry teens away from their screens? A few simple household rules can help encourage healthy sleep habits.
- Be a role model: Parents and caregivers can set a good example for their teen by modeling healthy sleep routines and limiting their own screen time.
- Avoid using screens before bed. Using electronics in the hour before bedtime can increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and reduces your teen’s sleep quality.
- Turn the phone off: If you can’t keep the phone out of your teen’s bedroom entirely, encourage them to switch their phone off when they go to bed to stop nighttime scrolling, phone calls and text messages.
- Replace screen time with physical activity: Suggest that your teen do a physical activity after school, such as going for a walk, instead of playing video games or watching TV.
- Cut back on social screen use: Explain to your teen that using a phone or tablet for more than two hours a day for social activities can impair their sleep.
- Decrease screen time during certain times of the day: Keep screens off-limits during mealtimes and homework, unless they are needed for school.
Parents and caregivers should recognize the warning signs of sleep deprivation – including irritability, difficulty concentrating and hyperactivity/nervousness – and mood and anxiety disorders. Seek professional help if you believe your teen is experiencing symptoms.
Remember, not every rule has to be implemented all at once. Incremental changes can go a long way in establishing a healthy screen time routine for your teen.
About Camino a Casa
Casa Pacifica is the largest non-profit provider of children’s and adolescent mental health services in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. The agency’s Camino a Casa program, available to clients with private insurance, provides behavioral health care to youth ages 12-17 who struggle with emotional dysregulation and high-risk behaviors that jeopardize their safety at home, school and/or community.
Intensive short-term residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and in-home behavioral health services comprise Camino a Casa’s full continuum of adolescent mental health care.
Learn more at www.caminoacasa.org