Here’s a story from the days before the Internet: One of my kids seemed pretty tired, day after day, and I thought I’d better ask her, do you think this is a problem?
It turned out that—contrary to my advice—she had gone to a friend’s home after school and seen Nightmare on Elm Street, a film featuring an undead movie ghoul who preyed on children in their sleep.
So she was afraid to fall asleep. It showed.
I wasn’t clear what to do about the problem, but decided to try making fun of it: I invented “Nightmare on the Danforth” (a district we lived in, in Toronto (Canada), known for its off-season fruit and vegetable shops).
I said, let me tell you about the rabid cherry tomatoes that assault people on the street here and wreck their clothes by raining tomato juice. Then there’s this giant cucumber, see … and he … And then the TURNIPS!!! TURNIPS!!! 9-11 LETHAL ATTACK TURNIPS!!!
Well, my strategy did have the intended effect. The kid laughed the scare off.
Seriously, though, the question of how kids are affected by what they see just before they go to sleep is worth considering, as Sarah Loughran at the University of Wollongong notes:
A 2014 review found consistent evidence that sleep was hampered by screen time, primarily in relation to shortened sleep duration and a delay in the timing of sleep. The latter finding was reported in 90% of the studies reviewed.] Part of this is a mere timing issue: [These negative impacts on sleep can be due to screen time in the evening cutting into the time that children would normally be preparing for bed and sleeping, delaying sleep onset and reducing the overall duration of sleep. There is simply less time available for it. But also,
… exciting video games, dramatic or scary television shows, or even stimulating phone conversations can engage the brain and lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline. This can in turn make it more difficult to fall asleep or maintain sleep. More.
So the ghoul Freddy’s creators were onto something before their time.
That said, every electronic device has an OFF button. And we should always remember that the late Steve Jobs, Apple genius, was a low tech parent. And so is much of Silicon Valley. Sure, they sell it, but they don’t always buy it.
Because it’s not good for a kid to know some screen artefact better than his own neighbours.
The unreal, unhealthy world kids can see online That parents may never have heard of.
Can smartphones make children borderline autistic? What about teens?
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.