Why kids shouldn’t sleep with their phones

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, our kids are constantly connected.  The 2016 participACTION study found that Canadian kids spend an average of almost 8.2 hours per day in front of a device.  In 2014, the same study mentioned that if we measured just students in grade 11, that number goes up to 11 hours a day!  That means there are kids that are spending more than 11 hours a day online.

Maybe you are wondering how it was even possible for a child to spend more hours online, than you spent at work.  I know I was.  We’ll, they glance down at their device all day at school, use it while heading to school and when they get home, they use computers at school and to do their homework (usually while staying connected through IM or some other social network), watch some TV, and then they sleep with their phone, checking it throughout the night.

Our kids are not getting enough sleep and because they are not getting enough activity throughout the day, they aren’t tired, this becomes a nasty cycle.  According to Dr. Mark Tremblay, lead researcher for the ParticipAction Report Card, this is “because of screens in their bedroom, because of holding their cellphone under their pillow, because they didn’t move very much in that day and frankly are not fatigued, (kids) get a disrupted night’s sleep.”

While I am no sleep expert, I know my kid functions better with a good night’s sleep.  So, here’s my take on sleeping with your phone.

Sleeping with your phone doesn’t sound dangerous but it is.  Here are three reasons your kids shouldn’t sleep with their phones:

  1. Cellphones could set their pillow or bedding on fire. All phone manuals warn against this – if the gadget is covered by bedding or other thick material it can overheat.  We’ve also seen devices have these issues and not be allowed on airplanes because they are overheating and catching fire.
  2. Cell phones in bed disturbs sleep patterns. Cell phones (and other devices like tablets and tv’s) give off blue light which our bodies process like daylight so our bodies think it’s time to get up.  To fall asleep when you want (and need to) power down your electronics two hours before bed (so the blue light in the room is all dissipated at bedtime) or better yet, keep them out of your bedroom at all.
  3. Although there is no conclusive result that cell phones cause cancer – the world health organization warned in 2011 that usage may be possibly carcinogenic to everyone but especially children because their scalp and skull are thinner than adults and more vulnerable to radiation. A few minutes on a phone call is one thing, sleeping with it next to your head all night is another.

When it comes to screen time there are no guidelines for what is “right” for all kids at all stages.  Though a lot of experts say 2 hours a day or less.  (That’s probably not happening in my house, what about yours?)

If you are noticing that screen time is impacting the well being of your child or family, then a discussion needs to happen.  And by the way, our kids are not the only ones constantly connected.

If like me and a lot of other moms, you have your kids, a job, social media, an addiction to DIY reality TV, and more devices and screens than you ever thought possible.  You are not alone.  If this is the case, and you feel it is impacting your family, you may want to curb your own screen time as well as your kids using our tips below.

Here are 4 ways to curb phones at night for the whole family:

  1. Have a device bedtime policy – If bedtime is at 8:30, give your kids an hour beforehand that is screen free. It will make them more tired and give you some quality family time too.
  1. Create a family charging station in a high traffic area of your home. I suggest the kitchen. When it’s time to put the devices away for the night, put them all together in one charging station.
  2. Create a rule about no devices in bedrooms. This gets the blue light out of the bedroom so a good night sleep can occur.  It also reduces fractured sleep schedules because kids aren’t waking up to see who just texted them at 2:00am.
  3. Install a filter which can limit the time spent online or depending on your kids, have an agreement about time spent online. There are lots of great apps and devices that do just that, however if you have a tech saavy kid they may be able to get around it easily.  If you kids understand why your rules are in place, they will be more inclined to follow them.

Now that you have these great tips to curb bedtime screen time, I hope you and your family has a great night sleep.


About the Author:

Melanie Rhora is a certified abuse prevention trainer, cyber security expert, mom and founder of Cyber Smart Canada Inc. She gets what it is like to parent in a digital world. The fantastic thing is with her security background, she has transformed this knowledge into power for you as a parent to keep our kids safe. She's on a serious mission to help communities Get Cyber SMART and help families create a balanced approach to online safety. It is really possible, and you don’t have to live without technology to make it happen.


  1. Beverly Facey November 15, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Great article and great doable tips. Thanks Melanie!

  2. Kari Raymer Bishop December 30, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Always such good advice… thank you for another piece that has left me with solid strategies to help my kids!

  3. Melanie January 2, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I’m glad I can help Kari 🙂

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