“A pleasant and happy life…”
This week, I want to talk about the benefits (even blessings) of a good night’s sleep.
In the Bible (Proverbs, chapter 3) we read –
21 My child, hold on to your wisdom and insight. Never let them get away from you. 22 They will provide you with life—a pleasant and happy life. 23 You can go safely on your way and never even stumble. 24 You will not be afraid when you go to bed, and you will sleep soundly through the night.
I confess that the thing I look forward to most on holidays is the opportunity for a sleep-in. There have been times in my life when I haven’t been able to sleep well – insomnia is usually the first symptom I experience of increasing levels of stress and anxiety. Hence, the concept of “sleeping soundly through the night” really appeals to me.
I’ve spoken about this before, but I want to reiterate that sleep is just as, if not more, important for children and adolescents than for adults. Studies have shown that Australian teens are the third-most sleep-deprived in the world and that more than 70% of Australian high school students suffer from regular sleep deprivation. Psychologist, Dr Kristy Goodwin, gives some specific advice for parents in the latest edition of “Parenting Ideas”, which you can read here. Even if you don’t read the whole article, can I emphasise two crucial ideas?
First, students need a “digital bedtime” as well as an actual bedtime. Quite apart from any emotional over-stimulation, the blue light from their digital devices will mess with their ability to get off to sleep easily. The advice is, no screens in the hour before planning on going to sleep.
Second, for a variety of reasons, bedrooms should be tech-free zones. This suggested rule is going to be contentious, so it is best established while your children are still young. Essentially, the main idea behind it is that your child(ren) shouldn’t be watching or doing anything on their devices that they wouldn’t be happy for you to see if you were looking over their shoulders. As well, of course, children shouldn’t be accessing their devices when they are supposed to be sleeping. But, as we all know, those blinking, beeping, buzzing devices are hard to ignore – which is why it’s best not to have them in the bedroom in the first place. Our advice? Have a family charging station (in the kitchen?), where everyone plugs in their phones and laptops before bed.
Related to this, when I think about the most serious issues involving digital devices that we deal with at school – and these include cyber-bullying, sexting, pornography, and excessive gaming – it seems to me that two preventative strategies are required. The first is education about the issues, and we seek to offer this in a range of contexts. The other, though, is adult supervision and child accountability (they go together), and that is where parents and teachers need to work collaboratively. I believe we generally have lesson-time supervision well covered, and our school network firewall monitors and protects all online activity (other than mobile phones, of course). As required, we are able to monitor students’ laptop browsing history on the school network. Could I urge you to think about whether you might need to review the supervision and accountability arrangements that you have in place with your child(ren), in relation to their online activity? Obviously, this will vary according to the age of your child, but I trust you agree that no school-aged child should be engaged in any of the serious issues I referred to above.
Mr Nigel Grant
Executive Director of Faith & Community