Why implementing strict tech rules helps students

Monday, 28 August, 2023

Why implementing strict tech rules helps students

Boarding school could be the answer for teenagers who use digital devices at night and struggle with sleep.

A new study by University of South Australia researchers shows that boarders get 40 minutes more sleep most nights than day students, due to fixed bedtimes and stricter policies around technology use.

These students go to bed earlier and wake up later, despite sleeping in shared, sometimes noisy, dormitories — factors that are normally associated with disrupted sleep.

The findings are based on a survey of 309 students from a co-educational school in Adelaide, including 59 boarders and 250 day students.

Published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, the study also found that despite teen boarders getting more sleep, they experienced similar levels of stress, anxiety and depression to their day peers.

UniSA researcher Dr Alex Agostini said the structured routine of a boarding school — with set times for sport, dinner, study, socialising and lights out — was more conducive to sleep.

“Night-time routine and restricting technology seem to be the key to better sleep, and this was borne out by feedback both from the students surveyed and the focus groups we interviewed,” Agostini said.

While homesickness can often disrupt sleep for new boarders, once they settle into their new environment and make friends, this usually settles down.

Boarding school is a double-edged sword for many students, according to the researchers. While it can promote social connections, life satisfaction and better academic outcomes, it is also associated with loneliness, behavioural problems and isolation.

These issues are especially common in adolescence, which is well recognised for the onset of mental health issues, with a clear link to sleep disruption.

Female boarders reported higher stress levels and loneliness than their male counterparts, but there were no significant gender differences in any of the sleep or technology use variables.

Image credit: iStock.com/Alihan Usullu

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