Five years ago I created the “10 Rules That Work” for tweens — outlining online safety tips and healthy habits. Through extensive research and a lot of effort my goal was to make these rules deep rooted fundamentals that would not expire over time. Let’s see how rule #3 and #4 fare out …
(I invite you to follow along every Saturday as I examine each rule one by one)

Rule #3: Set Cut-Off Times For Tech

The photo I used for this blog is an actual photo I took of all the devices I collected one night from my daughter’s sleepover. When the kids were younger the cut-off time for technology was 8:00pm. You will naturally change the cut-off time the older your kids get but it’s absolutely necessary to have one. The experts say we need to give our brain at least an hour of screen-free stimulation to properly allow it to wind down for bed. Playing Call of Duty killing zombies and running around shooting bad guys for an hour isn’t a soothing bed time ritual. It’s common sense if you think about it. The problem is not enough people do. So no video games an hour before bed.

Rule #3 (Set cut-off times for tech) goes hand in hand with Rule #4: No devices in the bedroom over night — I can’t talk about one and not the other. Not only is it good to cut off video games an hour before bed, but also social media and texting. Some people will argue that social media is not the same as video games and it’s “the way we communicate,” “it’s what I do to chill out.” It’s still a source of ongoing stimulation that does not allow your nervous system to shut down.

And you can’t help yourself — going back to check for new comments likes and shares feels SO GOOD. The more you get the more you want. Not to mention the irresistible alert dings from texts emails and games inviting you to play. I’ll never forget when a fifth grader stood up and said to me, “It’s really weird. I never get a good night’s sleep because my phone keeps dinging all night from game notifications.” My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he said that.

NO DEVICES IN THE BEDROOM OVER NIGHT PEOPLE!

Teens can’t handle the fear of missing out of a text so much so that they sleep with their phones in their hands. We can’t allow this. We should teach them that the bedroom is their safe room, their sanctuary, their place of rest. Imposing a no devices in the bedroom rule is a gift of mandatory unplugging that fosters short term and long term benefits.

You also protect your child and other people’s children by taking ALL devices during a sleepover. Nasty pranks and inappropriate behaviours occur after 10:00pm that could have been avoided had parents enforced the no devices in the bedroom over night rule. Some teachers are having to deal with these issues at school because photos have been taken during sleepovers and passed around. And don’t think other people’s kids won’t try to push your boundaries. One night when I was collecting phones (including my daughter’s friend’s phone) my daughter said “But she’s a guest.” I laughed … but I still took her phone.

2017 – Has this rule changed for us?

What really helped was to have a tech bowl in our home that holds all the chargers, tablets, laptops and phones. Five years ago we were much stricter with turning all devices in to this neutral location. Occasionally I would hear sounds in the night (what I later discovered were footsteps) sneaking to the bowl to take a phone. I wouldn’t realize it until the morning. Then I started taking the bowl into my bedroom. Our tech bowl is still in the same spot and is still where we put all the electronics when they’re not spread all over the couches and counters.

However I find that because all the chargers are in a central area in the kitchen, the kids tend to leave their phones there automatically to charge over night so I don’t really have to demand that they go directly in the tech bowl. If I go to sleep before my 14 year old who’s still studying I’ll ask if her phone is in her room and it usually isn’t. At this point if her grades are still good and she’s not having a hard time waking up early, I trust she’s telling the truth. There does come a time when we have to show we trust them.