Recent research has found that Australian children are using too much technology at the wrong times. This includes, mainly, at night when they should be sleeping. Apparently between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of school children have sleep disorders due to the overuse of technology at bedtimes.

It is common, today, to see school children talking on mobile phones, texting and tweeting. This is all very well: Children need to know how to use technology in the modern world, but their access to such technology should be restricted so that it doesn’t impact on the child’s health and well-being, particularly at school.

Night time, when they should be asleep or preparing to sleep, is not the right time for them to be texting or tweeting. Research has shown that Australian children are using technology too much at those times and missing out on sleep. It is not just the use of technology when in bed when they should be sleeping, but also being disturbed during the night by a mobile phone ringing or a computer signalling for the user’s attention. The brightness of television and computer screens and the excitement of the content being viewed also makes it difficult for the child to settle down to sleep after being exposed to them.

Sleep is very important for children if they are to cope with learning at school. Insufficient sleep can impact on the child’s health, moods and behaviour, and cause problems with memory and learning.

Unfortunately, many children become addicted to the use of technology and come to depend on it for their social interaction. This also is not good for the child, particularly at night when they should be sleeping.

What can be done about it?

Firstly, ban all technology, including televisions, mobile phones and computers from the bedroom. The child should learn that the bedroom is the place to sleep, not to watch television, play games nor talk to his/her friends. Bedtime means sleep.

Secondly, keep the technology in a room that is used during the day, not the bedroom, and turn off all the devices early, before the child goes to bed, to give them a chance to settle down and start to relax and drift towards sleep. Devices such as the mobile phone should be turned off and put on charge at a set time each night, in a public part of the house, so that everyone can see that they aren’t being used.

Thirdly, the child should be taught to restrict the use of technology to the daytime. Even then it should be limited so that the child can get some exercise outside in the fresh air to tire them out ready for sleeping at night.

It is necessary that children get adequate sleep if they are to perform properly at school. The impact of a lack of proper sleep on their education can be horrendous. Much of this lack of sleep occurs due to their overuse of technology when that should be sleeping: Texting, tweeting, playing computer games at bedtime or during the night, all have an adverse affect on the child and her/his learning ability.

This problem should be important to teachers as well as parents, since teachers will be most likely to suffer the affects on their pupils and have trouble with their behaviour. Perhaps teachers can help to alleviate the problem by discussing it with their pupils and their parents and suggesting to them ways of dealing with it.

Unfortunately, few parents seem able to control their children’s overuse of technology in this way. They may not even be overtly aware of it. The child may be sent to bed at the right time and, instead of sleeping, settle down with their computer and mobile phone to contact their friends. The parents may be unaware of what is happening, because they don’t check to see whether their child is playing on the computer or is in bed sleeping. For this reason, removing all the technology from the bedroom is the first, most important, most effective, step.

If steps are taken to control the child’s access to technology, not only when s/he should be sleeping but at all times, then both parents and teachers should see an improvement in the child. The improvement in the way of better health, less moodiness, better behaviour, better learning, better concentration, should be apparent, and appreciated, by both parents and teachers. The way to get that improvement is to make sure that the child gets adequate and proper sleep at the right time, that is, at bedtime, not when they fall asleep in class.