FOMO is driving children to check phones at night

smartphonesChildren are waking several times per night to check smartphones according to a recent article in the Education section of The Telegraph. The report says that children as young as nine are waking more than 10 times per night to check phone messages.

It’s not just a problem for children, adults too have never been more addicted to their smartphones. A survey by Deloitte reported that one in three adults check their smartphones during the night.


The modern concept FOMO is recognised in the English Oxford Dictionary and described as ‘Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.’ It’s essentially a fear of missing out and is very much a 21st century anxiety.

Smartphone addiction – the dangers

While there are both pros and cons for kids having and using mobile phones, the negative consequences can have a real impact on school work. Some of the dangers are:

  • Reduced concentration
  • Reduced face-to-face communication
  • Increased fear of missing out
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased stress
  • Increased procrastination

Tackling the problem – home

According to Teensafe it’s a question of balance. We are living in a modern age and constant digital connection is prevalent. Kids are growing up with a constant urge to know what is happening around them. Teensafe’s advice is for parents to understand this as a real issue and take steps to support their children’s self-esteem. Confident kids won’t feel the need to be constantly connected. Other tips for dealing with FOMO include:

  • Encourage offline activities
  • Set limits on phone usage and warn children in advance when it’s downtime
  • Organise family activities
  • Use the phone to record creative projects and display work
  • Remind kids that social media tends to show the perfect moments in people’s lives and that nobody’s life is perfect
  • Set a good example
  • Turn phones off at night and keep them out of the bedroom
  • Explain the myth of multi-tasking – when a person tries to do two things at once, there is often a drop in accuracy or speed

Tackling the problem – school

Understanding digital trends is important in educational development. Digital Awareness UK work in partnership with social media platforms to help schools develop support groups and structured programmes. The structured programmes, known as ambassador programmes, are aimed at empowering young people, as well as educating parents and teachers in digital trends.

While parents have the onus of dealing with any night-time use of phones, teachers have to work with the aftermath of sleepless nights in the classroom. Here are some tips for teachers to help keep pupils awake:

  • Suggest your pupil gets a drink of water
  • Suggest your pupil has a stretch at the back of the classroom
  • Switch to an activity that requires movement
  • Break up intense lessons with short energy breaks
  • Make sure the classroom is getting plenty of natural light
  • Have a conversation with the pupil about why he/she can’t stay awake
  • Notify the child’s parents and log which days are particularly problematic

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