The article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Just too wired: Why teens don’t get enough sleep,” suggests that technological distractions are at the root of a lack of sleep for teenagers.

The reasons for this actually go back a lot further in time before MySpace and instant messaging, to the widespread use of electric light bulbs. That is something I remember reading in Dr. Richard Swenson’s excellent book “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” a few years ago. Television and phones are also big factors. I am not denying the findings of the study discussed in the article: technology certainly plays a role. The irony of me blogging about this at 11 pm is not lost on me. I, too, find that technology provides reasons to stay up late. But I am not just reading when I am in the blogosphere. I am actively commenting, quoting, and writing. These are more sophisticated literacy tasks than just reading, and certainly more-so than watching TV or playing a video game. Kids today are multi-tasking, however. They are simultaneously online using IM, playing a video game, and talking on the phone. That was a clear finding in research done by Peter Grunwald, who presented 2 weeks ago at FETC.

I do agree with the idea that we need more sleep. I think today’s youth in many areas are generally over-programmed. This is a theme of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv, which my wife has read and told me about, but I still haven’t picked up. The premise is sound. Rather than remain “plugged in” to our info and technology saturated society as many hours of the day as possible, it is both healthy and necessary to unplug regularly. Our family does this best when we go camping. No cell phones, no computers, no TV, and no electricity besides flashlights. We go to bed when it gets dark (after a campfire and marshmallows, of course) and get up with the sun rises. That is much more in sync with the natural pace of life. Sadly, camping trips for us are too few and far between.

This line of thinking goes with the post “Let’s Fight for Recess” from earlier in the month. Those ideas seemed to resonate strongly with several other folks. As humans, we need down time. And this includes down time from technology. Another post that relates to this is “Snow Days are the best days,” from February 2005. We haven’t had a good “snow day” here in Lubbock, Texas, for many a moon. :-(

This article suggests that students should go to bed earlier so they won’t fall asleep in school. But it does not explore the possible explanation: It seems likely that teens are more engaged and intrinsically motivated to be awake when they are at home in the evening and at night with ready access to technology tools, than when they are at school usually forced to “sit and get” in an educational system still largely stuck in the 1800s. This article can be read as a call for engaged teaching and learning, and environments where the interactive potential of web 2.0 tools is leveraged to encourage the authentic development of student literacy skills.

Thanks to Ian Jukes for posting on this article.

So… I will write no more tonight. Good night! :-)


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On this day..

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  • http://www.cheryloakes.com Cheryl Oakes

    Wes, I haven’t but will read the article on Nature-Deficit Disorder, I may even include it next week in my Audio Notes with Mrs. Oakes, and at various times over the summer!
    When our boys were younger we would have winter picnics in the woods behind our house, anything to be outside. We just need to be creative. If you can’t arrange a camping trip, pretend and have a campout in the living room, unplug everything, including the phone, get out the flashlights and glow sticks, and have at it! Our lives today are are more complicated, complex and we can control how we add nature to our lives. Just make it the new culture! Over and out.

  • Anna Apoderado

    I have not read the article however, would like to comment on your blog. It is important that students or teenagers go to bed earlier and have a sleep for at least 9 hours a day. This is necessary for their bodies to release a hormone that is essential during their growth spurt. To make this happen, parents should control and consistently discipline their children to manage their time and resources. Advanced technology has not totally controlled our lives but somehow influenced our priorities and interests. It is still up to us to think how we can wisely use our time and resources without our health being affected. It is also about juggling our priorities and making sure we get enough rest and quality sleep so we can be capable of handling challenges of life.

  • Ted Gardella

    I have read the excellent piece by Susan Brenna in Edutopia, and agree that active, engaged learning and recreation are necessary for health. But I wonder why we decry “sit and get” lessons, but think nothing of “sit and blog” or “sit and IM” or “sit and game” … incorportating technology is critical – but weaving together internet, hand-held graphing and probeware technologies, high quality literacy and writing is an art form. And then helping parents to make good choices for family relationships in our over-scheduled world – good luck!

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