Mental Health, Social Media and Sleep: Suggestions and Solutions.

  • Keep devices out of bedrooms. Allow technology use in places where you, the parent, can monitor it. At night, keep devices close to you. Tweens and Teens have been known to sneak down devices in the middle of the night. The draw is that strong.

  • Power down at least 1-2 hours before bed to protect sleep and to ensure your teen is getting the break they need from the pressure to be connected. Help your student prioritize homework so online homework is done first. Support your student by setting the expectation with teachers that your child will complete homework on paper if it’s too late to be online. You have the right to “opt out” of online work in support of your child’s physical and mental health.

  • The alarm feature on smartphones is great but do yourself a favor and buy an alarm clock. Picking up your phone first thing raises cortisol levels.

  • Let your teen blame you. Give them words: “Tell your friends that I’m the worst and I wont allow it.”

  • Delay social media until high school when bullying tends to easy up.

  • Establish a “People Come First” rule around device use in your home and car. Create a “Cell Motel” and collect devices during events in your home. Face-to-face interactions improve feelings of well-being and mental health.

  • You’re not an Uber driver. Require riders in your car to talk to you while you drive them from here to there. Kids are also more likely to talk about the impacts of their day in the car when they’re not distracted by their device. You will also be introducing safe rules around phone use in the car before your kids start driving.

  • Keep devices off the table and put away. Meals are a time for families to disconnect from technology and connect with each other. This connection is so very important for kids.

  • Encourage kids to be bored. Avoiding using devices to distract your children and don’t allow them to turn to devices when bored. Teach them how to deal with stress and boredom, and how to behave appropriately in a restaurant. Boredom is part of life and helps kids build resilience, creativity and patience.

  • Encourage face-to-face interactions, free play and time outdoors. Sunlight actually improves the negative effects of blue light on eye health.

  • Encourage mindful use of technology. Choosing to engage vs. responding to alerts. Give kids words, “Now I am going to check my texts.” “Now, I’m going to do something else.” We know it’s corny but it works.

  • Take breaks from screens (for instance, 20 minutes on, 60 minutes off). Plan tech-free days. Commit to tech-free activities. Leave screens at home when you go on vacation.

  • Talk to your teen about how social media makes them feel and how it feels to disconnect. Screenagers Filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD, offers suggestions on how to talk with your kids about technology here and here.

*Some suggestions borrowed from Psychologist Jonathan Haidt. To hear directly from him, listen here starting at 1:18.

To learn more about how teens are using social media and for more suggestions, visit our Empower section, particularly Social Media and Smartphones