Parents of teenagers beware. Most teens are not getting enough sleep. The recommended number of hours per night for teens is nine. A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that over 50% of teens ages 15 to 17 only get seven hours a night. That's two hours short for many teens, which makes them overly tired and moodier. Being a teen is already hard, and full of stress and changes. Being exhausted doesn't help. Are you a savvy parent who knows why?
Most teens are heavily scheduled during hours when their parents are up, with school, activities, lessons, sports and homework. When we go to bed, guess who stays up late to have some downtime and freedom? Yes, that would be our teenagers.
The drawing power of connection through social media is luring teens in to quietly snap-chatting, texting, instagramming, tweeting, face-timing, youtube surfing, downloading music and more in the dark of their bedrooms after parents think they are asleep. It's a trend the New York Times covered in a story on July 6 about the trend to "vampire" or "vamp" by being up late in the night. Some teens find it cool to see posts timed in the middle of the night, as it can represent freedom.
Parents need to communicate with teens about the need for sleep, and setting some reasonable limits to protect their sleep habits. Does your teen have a time when their smart phone, laptop, ipad, etc. is turned off and plugged in for recharging somewhere they can't get to it again before morning? As a family counselor, I am more concerned about this for younger teens than older ones. If your teen has disappointing or declining grades, this possibility is something it's smart to consider and do some surprise check-ins that all is dark and quiet in their room.
Danah Boyd, a writer/researcher with Microsoft Research recently published her book, "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens". She considers social media sort of the new mall for this generation of teens to hang out together and have social contact. Many teens are so structured by day that late nights are the only downtime.
What's a parent to do? Stay in conversation with your teen about these issues of sleep, downtime, the need for social contact and the importance of setting some limits and boundaries. We also need to watch what we role model, and put our own technology to bed at a reasonable hour, have good sleep patterns and lifestyle habits.
Watch out for the vampires at your house. Check your teen's bedrooms first for the faint glow of a smartphone under the covers.