No Matter What Your Kids Say, They Don’t Need to Sleep With Their Phones

I speak with hundreds of parents every year and a common theme often emerges: when the conversation shifts to plugging in cellphones at night, suddenly a crisis (especially from parents of teens).

Kids have a multitude of excuses for keeping their phones with them at night and I’m not buying any of them.

My advice is simple: phones (all tech, really) needs to sleep in a room separate from its users, just like cars do. It makes for the best kind of sleep for humans. And phones.

No matter the venue in which I give this advice, I have parents who report that their teenage sons and daughters have a perfectly legitimate reason for sleeping with their phones like it’s the family dog. And every time I tell parents, “You’re being duped, plain and simple.”

A hard truth that will benefit parents everywhere: kids don’t need to sleep with their phones to live. I know this because for millions of years our ancestors slept without phones and yet we’re still here.

We know it’s not a life-preserving device; let’s check that off our list.

Here are other common reasons I hear that kids need to sleep with their phones:

“It’s my alarm clock.” Get your child an old-school alarm-clock radio. It tells time, it plays music, and it wakes you up for school. Magic.

“I have to listen to music to fall asleep.” I don’t like this one for a couple of reasons. First, it reinforces poor sleep habits. Children do best falling asleep in the absence of stimuli, not because of it. Second, falling asleep to music is just one step away from falling asleep to videos and the sleep science is clear that that is a really bad habit.

“I need to be available in case (friend’s name) needs me.” No child should be available for late-night peer counseling. If that burden is being placed on your child, you have to address why that facet of the relationship is coming into the house (that’s not a phone issue, it’s a people issue).

There are more excuses, but those are a few of the common ones.

My advice: set up good sleep habits when your kids are young and don’t cave into the pressure to change as they get older. Will they be happy about this? Probably not, but childhood isn’t just about happiness. In fact, my grandfather would likely say, “You’re lucky we ever let you be happy. Now take out the trash.”