In this week’s TES there is an article on the problems many children have getting to sleep. They cite the prevalence of video games, televisions and computers in children’s bedrooms, and that in a recent survey of 251 teachers, 82% believe that parents aren’t ‘strict enough about enforcing bedtimes’.
So what can we do about this? Short of controlling when they go to bed (and even in a boarding school this is hard: I worked for three years as a housemaster, and you cannot physically check that 40 plus kids are all asleep – and remain asleep once you’re in bed) we are at the mercy of parents actually keeping their side of the deal and removing the electronic devices from the bedrooms (or at least switching off the wifi).
However, there may be a way in which we can begin to help parents with this issue. Now that we are able to monitor and block net access both on site and off, we can potentially offer parents the ability to cut off the internet from all mobile devices that have been authenticated on your school network. Products such as Netbox Blue and Lightspeed route all traffic through their servers, to which you can adjust policies so that access can be controlled both in terms of content and time. If a parent wishes their son to have no access whatsoever to porn on their iPod Touch, or no access to the internet after 10pm, this can be done.
In our schools we will be blocking Facebook and Twitter from 8am to 5pm every day. We’ve tried using them in the classroom and neither add enough value. They will be blocked with both wireless and 3G – as they can be at home as well, thus getting over the issue of children using their 3G network if the wireless is turned off at night.
We have all seen the damaging effects of sleep deprivation: anyone who has had young children will know just how difficult it is to do anything, let alone learn, when you are exhausted. If we cannot be there to turn off their lights, we can at least offer parents some help to control mobile device use: it may be that the technology so many parents fear can now be used to help them in the difficult job of raising young people in a digital age.
We are installing one of these products over the summer, so I will report back once it’s up and running.