PBS This Emotional Life Blog~ You may already know that many teens sleep with their cell phone on or near the bed. As an adult, you yourself may sleep with your cell phone and see no problem with this behavior.
A closer look at the reasons that 4 out of 5 teens sleep with their phone, however, gives cause for concern. While for some teens, the night use of the phone is as a clock or alarm, for most the phone is on all night to connect with peers.
This “on call” status can reflect obligation, anxious need, and even addiction. It jeopardizes physical, emotional and cognitive functioning and limits domains of influence and connection.
The peer pressure “to be available” used to mean hanging out after school. It takes on different proportions when it means being available 24/7. Teens in focus groups report that they sleep with a phone under the pillow in case someone contacts them. They report wanting to be available for a friend in need but dislike being called for unnecessary issues, pranks, or by bored friends.
At an age when self-esteem hinges on peer acceptance, being caught in the demands of always being available is difficult. Many teens report stories of friends getting insulted, angry or upset if a text message or phone call is not responded to immediately.
“People will wake me up in the middle of the night and I have to wake up and talk or they will think I’m mad at them or something.”
Anyone who has dealt with the sleep deprivation of being a new parent or knows the sleep disruption and hypervigilance of being “on call” can appreciate the undue physical and emotional cost of a teen’s all night phone connection.
Medical research increasingly underscores the need for adolescents to get sleep – in fact 9 hours compared with adult’s 8 hours. Teen sleep deprivation has been associated with memory deficits, impaired performance and alertness. The loss of REM or intense sleep can result in increased irritability, anxiety and depression, as well as reduced concentration and creativity.
Do you know if your teen is sleeping?
Does he/she need help protecting their sleep?
The Texting Trap
Cell-phone texting has become the preferred channel of basic communication between teens and their friends. One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day or 3000 texts a month.
Teens who use their cell phones to text are 42% more likely to sleep with their phones than teens who own phones but don’t text.
Texting is instantly gratifying and highly anxiety producing. Instant connection can create elation and self-value only to be replaced by the devastation of no response, a late response, the misinterpretation of a punctuation mark, a sexually harassing text, a text sent to the wrong person or a text that is later regretted.
Neuro-imaging has shown that back and forth texting floods the pleasure centers of the brain, the same area that lights up when using heroin. The emotional disruption of a real or perceived negative response, however, necessitates more texting to repair the mood, to fix the feelings of rejection, blame and disconnection. The addictive potential is obvious.
Texting as an addiction jeopardizes sleep, cognitive functioning and real relating- making dependence on it greater and greater.