Thursday, August 30, 2007

Technology and Teenage Night Owls

It's 11:51p.m. and my middle teen, Kyle, has just celebrated his 17th birthday. This morning I thoughtfully (or so I thought) handed him a new Ipod shuffle and a good headset for the gym so he could leave his LG Fusic phone with MP3 and video etc. etc. safe at home. While he loaded his gift with his favorite music he had on his laptop he dropped downstairs to play Jade Empire on his (actually MY. See next blog on female gamers) Xbox and then back to his room, check email, talk to friends on IM, and before he knows it it's now 1:20 a.m. Out goes the lights but not the "connectivity". Within seconds soemone is calling him or texting him on the phone. 2:10a.m., off it goes again.

What has the tech industry, that you and I as parents helped develop, done to our teens. We've actually messed with their circadian rhythm. By virtue of their developmental cycle teens have dealt with this problem as far back as anyone can remember but now we've made staying connected so simple and addictive (just look at the popularity of World of Warcraft, Facebook, and Live Messenger) that we're throwing the internal clock toward later sleep times. The 24/7 connectivity further exasperates the issue.

It is clear we as parents have to take control of the situation and the article at:
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6894556

goes into great detail what changes you can easily make to modify the sleep ritual and further details the light and melatonin therapies that can be used to reprogram your teens body clock.

As technology leaders, perhaps it is profound that we are fiercely protective of our children but yet we have developed and marketed that which now deprives them of their precious and essential sleep (in fact a teen should get 9,5 hours a night). Certainly they have no problem sleeping almost 14 hours on a weekend morning but it doesn't make up for the huge block of hours missing from their daily requirements and does nothing to help restore their proper circadian rhythm.

So where does that leave us. Well the suggestions are there and as parents common sense seems to be the order of the day, but I'd like someone to tell me how much luck I'm going to have removing cell phones and laptops from my 14 year old daughter, the birthday boy and my, in one week, 19 year old son. I can quite accurately predict the outcome: gregarious laughter as my boys, who can bench press more than I care to think about, play "toss the mommy" while reminding me I am in no position to negotiate, or declaring how hilarious it is watch me while I'm trying to be serious/mad at them.

My husband had the right idea decades ago: just reprogram them (he's a coder of course)!

So ladies, it looks like the future of our teens may be up to us! According to recent research we control the market so let's start making the changes necessary to protect our own sanity!

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