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Rotting to the core
This TikTok trend raises consequential questions about children and parenting.
Originally published in the Moultrie News.
I’ve heard of kids who take a day off from school or on the weekend to stay in bed all day, only getting up to use the bathroom. My daughter says it helps with mental health. What do you think?
The trend you refer to is called “bed rotting,” and it emanates from that treasure trove of lovely ideas, TikTok.
Bed rotting is basically as you describe it: the child or adolescent lies in bed all day, binge-watching shows, scrolling social media, snacking, and napping. If you believe TikTok (where videos about bed rotting have over 2 billion views), it’s a form of “self-care” to aid mental health. Whatever you say, TikTok.
Psychologists differ on whether bed rotting is good for mental health (which probably tells us more about psychologists than about bed rotting). Common sense and experience, however, unanimously agree: kids need to get up and do something. Lying in bed all day is mentally, physically, and emotionally unhealthy.
Keep in mind we’re not talking about conventional “resting.” Taking a break from stress for a day is good, but it should involve physical movement and personal productivity. We’re also not talking about “sleeping in.” It’s normal for kids who don’t get enough sleep during the week to sometimes sleep away half their Saturday; that’s how their developing brains ”catch up” on lost time. Once awake, however, activity should ensue.
Simple reason tells us there‘s a lot wrong with bed rotting. Predominant is the law of inertia: an object at rest tends to stay at rest. The lazier you act, the lazier you want to be. To be an active, productive individual, you have to do active, productive things.
Dr. Emily Mudd of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital says, “Children have social, developmental, and emotional needs that cannot be met by being solitary in bed. They have activity-based needs, like being with peers and academic learning. Although rest is important, these activities are crucial for social, emotional, and cognitive development.”
That makes sense, but others disagree. TikToking sleep scientist Vanessa Hill calls bed rotting “perfect” and “100 percent backed by science.” She says, “It’s the end of optimization and anti-productivity because you are wasting away under a blanket, and the nothingness is your best life.” Presumably, she meant that as an endorsement. I think she and I possess different views of what constitutes one’s “best life.”
As bad as it sounds, bed rotting is small compared to the consequential issues it raises about children and parenting.
We discuss children’s poor mental health as if it’s a natural occurrence, like colds or ringworms. But maybe we should start asking why — in an age where children face few significant stressors — kids should be so unhealthy. They’re generally well-nourished, sufficiently entertained, never overworked, and they face peaceful, reasonably prosperous futures. What is missing in their lives that is causing them such debilitating angst?
The few problems they do face are promoted by adults. If we restricted phone and screen use, discouraged drugs, fostered their innocence, nurtured them in families, and created secure environments for them, they would easily be the healthiest generation that ever lived.
In our eagerness to indulge them, we’ve given them no reason to even want to get out of bed. Everything they desire is right there. They’re entertained by remote-controlled smart TVs and gaming consoles. They socialize through digital apps. They sustain themselves on processed snacks. We’ve suppressed their activity by eliminating the need for it.
Not long ago, a child’s biggest anxiety was FOMO — Fear of Missing Out, the feeling that everybody is having fun without you. That concept is evaporating because nothing kids fear “missing out” on is even real anymore. From socialization to sports to sex, it can all be indulged through the virtual milieu of a phone, easily accessed from the confines of one’s bed. All they require of us is WiFi.
“Rotting” is an apt term for what will happen to children if we don’t find a way to turn this around.
Read the original column here.
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