Are smart phones keeping kids up too late and causing them to drag in school?

One of the least discussed threats to student success is lack of sleep. When sleep does merit discussion, it’s often in the context of school start times.

A few months ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics proclaimed insufficient sleep in adolescents “an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students.”

In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, a journalist takes a photo of the new plastic iPhone 5C during a media event held in Beijing, China. Many Chinese gadget lovers responded with a shrug when Apple Inc. unveiled two its new iPhone 5 this week. Today’s market is glutted with alternatives from Samsung to bargain-priced local brands. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Credit: Maureen Downey

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Credit: Maureen Downey

In a statement, the group urged schools to start after 8:30 AM, saying, “…delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students and urges high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the opportunity to achieve optimal levels of sleep (8.5–9.5 hours) and to improve physical and mental health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life.”

I suspect research will soon tell us early classes aren't the only reason students aren't getting enough sleep. They are also staying up later than ever because of smart phones and social media.

I've had discussions with both parents and teachers over the holiday about the pervasive use of iPhones and how kids now take them to bed with them so they can chat with friends, watch Vines or browse Instagram. I've had teens tell me they are often on their phones until 1 or 2 in the morning.

Some parents are attempting to regain control by collecting their children’s phones at 10 p.m. But it's hard to wrest a phone out of the hands of a 17-year-old.

However, other parents seem resigned to a world where kids spend hours looking down at the magic box. And it’s often because they, too, are hooked on their phones and can’t bear to be without them.

If you are a teacher, are you noticing adolescents are more sleep deprived now than in the past?

If you're a parent, what are your rules regarding smart phones and computers at night?