unplugging to sleep.

Raise your hand if you have a small panic attack if you accidentally leave your cell phone at home or misplaced for a few minutes? Are you raising your hand? I am. We have moments at our house when someone says, “I can’t find my phone!” and everyone drops what they are doing to 1) use the Find iPhone app and 2) help the person who lost their phone find their missing appendage. Myla, our fourteen year old, mis-placed her phone this past Saturday some time between golfing with girlfriends that evening and coming home and has been in an all-out funk since doing so. Which, we all understand, right? Do you spend a LOT of waking hours in front of a computer, tablet or television than outside or with friends and family? My hand is still raised. It seems these habits are becoming second nature with all the advancements, improvements and even marketing techniques for the latest technologies. KJ, our son, has been watching the live Apple launch recording of the latest iPhone 6 for days – he’s waiting for it to arrive at our local AT&T store as if Elvis was in the building. I’ve come to think of my smart phone as a lifeline. I always have it with me to stay connected with family {TEENAGERS}, friends and for emergency situations. It’s challenging to remember how I survived without it just ten-fifteen years ago… It’s challenging to imagine if I’d ever get to communicate with my teenagers if I didn’t have it.

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This obsessive technology insanity is what led my husband and I to take-away our kids’ technology (not just smart phones, but ANY form of technology) from bedtime to ready-for-school-time. Because you know what? Our kids weren’t sleeping if anything related to technology was available in their bedrooms! I have a twitter account, and 90% of the reason I do is because that is where I observe the life of the teenagers around me on a daily basis. (side note: they like it – they think it’s hilarious that i “like” photos of them doing silly things during school hours, etc. and they follow me. try it!) However, our family would all say good night to each other, go to bed, and the next day when I checked twitter I would see that my oldest daughter was posting tweets at all hours of the night – 1am, 2am… when I assumed she’s sleeping. Do you witness this situation in your homes? It affects our teenagers the most, who really need sleep in their busy-over-scheduled-still-growing lives, but our younger kids were also in the same tech-addicted-rut. just not on twitter. they were playing minecraft or watching videos of minecraft from under their sheets.

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We have been applying this tactic for months now, and heaven knows our children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water, or shelter. At ages almost-eight, eleven, fourteen, and sixteen, my daughters and my son don’t use media. They inhabit media. And they do so exactly as fish inhabits a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there. They don’t remember a time before group texts, IG, snap chat, twitter, youtube, Google, audio books, or x-box.

My kids — like yours, I’m guessing — are part of a generation that cut its teeth, literally and figuratively, on a keyboard, learning to say “’puter” along with “Momma,” “juice,” and “Now!” They’re kids who’ve had cell phones and wireless Internet longer than they’ve had molars. Who multitask their schoolwork alongside five or six other electronic inputs, to the syncopated beat of Facebook messaging pulsing insistently like some distant tribal tom-tom.

Wait a minute. Did I say they do their schoolwork like that? Correction. They do their life like that. And to be honest, so do I.

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I passionately feel like my kids and I are pretty balanced regardless of this media-driven age. Besides summer months, they are each in school an average of thirty hours/week. In addition to that they each spend a small portion of time practicing the piano each day, going to dance classes, tennis practice, work, they have fun social lives, and family activities. I’ve always felt that if they are doing well at school, managing their extra-curricular activities, then I didn’t over-obsess about how much time they spent using electronics, especially since two of my kids seem focused on careers in technology. This was all fine until they were choosing not to sleep.

Do you stay on your computer or phone until right up until you hit the sheets? I’m guilty again. I read that the light emitted from the smart phone screens actually trick your brain into thinking it needs to stay awake and alert. This reduces your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Do you have challenges sleeping well? Who doesn’t want 8-10 hours of sleep a night? (note: no one is raising their hands now.)

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The bonus of taking our kids’ phones, tablets, computers, etc away at night, is that it also gives us the opportunity to monitor what they are doing on them. (GASP!) With teenagers, it allows us time to peek into their text messages, downloaded apps, etc and make sure nothing is going on that shouldn’t be. My kids all know this is going to happen, and they also know they aren’t going to have tech-privacy till they are 18 and move out. so far, this has been a very good thing with some fierce consequences a couple of times.

Some helpful steps to unplug kids, teens, and yourself at night:

1} Disconnect before your bedtime routine. Parents must unplug too. Set the example for your children.
2} I added a little fabric lined tray I found at Target next to my husbands side of the bed, that is where all the hand-held techy gadgets sit and get re-charged at night. That way, when we are going to bed – we can check and see who has turned in their phones and who hasn’t. It is their job to bring them to us, we don’t go gathering at night. If they don’t turn them in by about 9pm, they don’t get their phone the next day. Also, having their phones right next to our bed allows us to know they can’t sneak and get them during the night if they were located somewhere else in the house, like the kitchen.
3} Find alternatives to technology. make sure the kids – and yourself – have new reading material for bedtime.

any other ideas, friends? Thoughts? I’d LOVE to hear!

I found this article to be interesting. We consume twelve hours of digital media on average? holy smokes! I think we can all improve. Even if it’s only an extra hour or two, maybe more, of sleep!

photos by Mindy Johnson, taken at the Rose Est. in SLC, hair braids by Rubi Jones – watch her video – “she lets her hair down”!

15 responses to “unplugging to sleep.”

  1. I felt as if I was reading an excerpt from my own story. We learned the hard way with our oldest. He was staying up half the night, texting and such. But he “needed” his iphone, because the alarm would wake up in the morning right? We were so dumb! Technology is amazing, I love it, but if I allowed it, it would completely consume the lives of my teens. Moderation in all things right?!?! So glad you’re back! ❤

  2. We have been doing this for a while now, too, for all the same reasons. We had some resistance at first and had to buy “regular old-fashioned” alarm clocks because our boys were worried about not being able to wake up in time if they couldn’t use their electronic devices as alarms. However, it is soooo worth it!!! I sleep better knowing THEY are sleeping better. (Which Heaven knows they need since they swim early every morning at either 5 or 6 am!) I am also relieved knowing they do not have unfettered access to the internet. All. Night. Long. Which is especially scary for a boy~momma with our house full of little mancubs… (Knowing the ease of accessing porn-driven media on the internet and social media sites and the devastating effects that habit can have on individuals and families.) I believe responsible parents stay connected for the sake of nurturing their children and helping them learn to navigate and moderate this vast and powerful interconnected world we live in. It is one thing to “unplug”… But it is another to stay REALLY “plugged in” and REALLY be a part of the world our children are inheriting. It takes conscious thought and effort and purposeful parenting to maintain our own balance and help our kiddos develop a healthy relationship with technology as well as their real life. We have a Screen Time < Face Time policy at our house… Our boys can use their devices to connect and communicate but we encourage them to spend real life "face-to-face" time with their friends in equal or greater quantity than their Screen Time, whenever possible. This is challenging, especially since this is not the case in everyone's family, where online app use or gaming is often the open-ended, (seemingly endless) social activity in some households. But again, our best efforts are worth it! I think this is one of the greatest battles we, as Mommas, are fighting in this generation. We are constantly competing with technology for our children's attention! But I am glad to know I am not alone! Thanks for writing this post, dear friend. You are a great momma!

  3. Great article! I agree with so many points you made. We live in such a techy world, which has so many wonderful advantages. But…there is always the bad that goes along with it. I love you are a parent that advocates good media habits and teaches your children the same. We all need a reminder to shut it down, thank you! ps…beautiful pictures!!

  4. First, it’s so good to see you blogging again. I’ve been a faithful reader ever since I was THIS CLOSE to coming to your house for a Bluelily workshop a couple of years ago. [Finally did have one w/them in south Boston, another time.] I started my blog a while back, and go through periods of being obsessed with it to then abandoning it. And back again. Because as you describe w/kids and technology, I find myself overusing my phone/iPad/Mac all the time. The phone, especially. It’s my Swiss army knife for life. [And yes, I stay up way too late in front of a screen.] My daughters are almost 8 and 10, the elder one has a Kindle Fire and now the little one desperately wants one….and I know what’s happening. I see it, I do it myself. I get so fearful of the day when we are all sitting side by side on a couch together, my girls and me, looking at our phones. Not talking.

    But it’s a BALANCE. I too make sure the kIndle, the iPad, my cell phone too are all out of our bedrooms at night. And I’m super happy to load up on library books or even take a trip to the book store if it means they’re engaging their brains, having cathartic experiences in the pages of something you can see and hold and touch. And that happens w/frequency.

    We do the best we can as parents to navigate these waters. Love that you posted about this, please keep the tech/teen/tween posts coming.

  5. I have SO completely missed your posts Jane. And FYI; you’ve still got it. You have this way of reaching people through your writing. Your advice is never over-the-top, and never feels like you’re speaking down to people. To me, it’s simply an “I understand what you’re going through, here’s what I’ve been doing that seems to help me”. And that’s why I love your blog.

    Although I don’t have teenagers, I can relate to this post because of my own iphone obsession. But it’s not the phone; it’s the connection to the outside world. It’s finding out anything you need to know in a matter of seconds. It’s the social part in social media. And I need to know when to turn it off. For a while, I was setting my alarm on my phone to tell me “put your phone down, you need to sleep!” And it was working. Until I’d toss and turn and pick it back up again…. It was a battle!

    A few months ago my phone was submerged in water and unfortunately could not be turned on for days. I thought I would just DIE without it. How would I go anywhere without it? How would I feel safe and secure without constant connections? But you know what, it was actually not that bad. I missed it, but I came to the realization that i would, in fact, survive without it. It was actually a good lesson to learn.

    Thanks for writing this post and reminding me to take a break every once in a while! Glad to have you back!

  6. I really think that what you’re doing with this technology is great, it brings the family together etc
    But checking your kids phone… I think it’s really intrusive. I would have hated my parents for doing that. What we have on our phone is private and even though you’re doing this to protect them I don’t really know if they’re happy knowing that their Mama is reading conversations they’re having with friends…

    • Lola… to each his own for sure. It’s a good thing we all have differences in opinion… would be a boring, sterile, homogeneous world otherwise. We (Jane and I) let our kids know before they get a phone that one of the rules of having a phone is that we can check them at any time for things that shouldn’t be sent. It’s their decision. There is too much crap passed around. And our kids like Kelly B’s tell their friends that we read them. This is like a security camera on premise… not there for litigation after but for prevention. Finally… I can’t tell the stories… but this has actually saved our children some pains, that may or may not have been permanent, that we’ve caught some things early. We are proactive parents some would say “intrusive” that way. I’m not saying it is the best way… I just know our kids have my genes! 🙂 Good luck out there… takes a village!

      • Thanks for your answer Dusty.
        I really do understand your point, I know that you’re actually doing this to protect your children and bless both of your for doing this.

  7. I love this! I had a girlfriend who has older teens than I give me this advice a few years back. My kids have to bring their phones in to our room at night as well. At first they didn’t turn them off and I was shocked at how much activity was going on on my daughters phone at night! Seriously those kids never sleep! We live in a time where technology drives us. There are so many things about this that are good and I love yet I still want my kids to be kids! I want them to learn to communicate with people face to face and be active! It s important to teach our kids to have a balance. My husband and I also decided to leave our devices in the kitchen so we wouldn’t have any distractions at night as well. It honestly was the best thing for our marriage! I don’t think we realize how much we rely on those little devices! So glad you are back to blogging, love your insight!

  8. Wow, I think I must be on the extreme end, my kids don’t get any screen time Monday-Thursday. If I could I would probably take it away even on the weekends! They don’t have phones, even my almost 13 year old (!), but their iPods are all consuming as it is, I’d hate to see what texting, internet use, etc. would do to them. I think technology is amazing, and life saving, and important, but I worry how dependent our kids can be on it. And at such a young age. My oldest is really pushing for a phone, but he knows with it comes so much responsibility, and we just aren’t there yet. I wrote a big article on cell phones and tweens/teens, http://www.classic-play.com/kid-get-cell-phone/, and I loved the dialog it opened up. Not to mention I got to tell my son he ISN’T the last 12 year old on the planet without a cell phone. 🙂

  9. I love this post, so applicable to so many people these days. We also have similar rules in our home. Our kiddos also understand that my husband and I CAN and DO check their texts/messages occasionally. This has been a controversial thing among some, but I feel it is one way we can protect our kids from some of the bad out there. My kids have told their friends that we check messages and if they don’t want it seen by us, then don’t send it!
    We also have a rule that at meal times there are no electronic devices allowed. Real face to face conversations only 🙂 So glad you are back to blogging!

  10. I am so glad your blog is back 🙂

    And I liked reading this. My boyfriend takes issue with me being on my phone and I need to get better at leaving it alone and appreciating my time with him!

  11. Great article! I needed to hear this. Since my business is ALL on social media (mainly Facebook) I am on my laptop way more than I used to be. I needed this reminder. And having said that, I am going to bed….without my laptop. (Matt can thank you later!)

  12. I love reading your blog and know that you are both very intentional parents. I come from a family of 12 and my dad recently published a book on parenting. I would love for you to have a copy if you are interested.

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