Rebecca L.

All of human history’s inventions have advantages and disadvantages. Some are not even actually needed, such as a nightlight. Since nightlights are a common item on every new parent’s shopping list, they are perceived as needed, but they really are not. Children would be much better off without one. This simple convenience may make life temporarily easier for children, but in the long run, they would be better off without one.

The natural instinct of parents is to protect their children. Infants, totally dependent on their mother and father and trust them for everything, but when they near the age of toddlers, they become more aware of their independence and, consequently become fearful of the world around them. This is often the beginning of the time when they start to notice things that go bump in the night and perceive “monsters” under their bed. The reaction of parents at this time is to assure them everything is fine, and frequently, to plug a nightlight by their beds.

Nightlights can be good. They are helpful, especially to illuminate the path to the restroom a late night drink of water. But it can also create problems, and a false sense of security. The very idea of lighting the dark gives children the idea there is any easy way to navigate the unknown, the darkness. 

The idea implanted by the nightlight creates the secondary fear that the light will be extinguished, and then what will they do? However, if young children were given the relatively safe opportunity to face their fears in their bedrooms, sans the nightlight, how might it affect their outlook on the rest of life’s challenges? Children, with eyes adjusted to the darkness, learn to maneuver their way to the bathroom to quench their thirst, and perhaps to maneuver their way into life. Confident of their ability to achieve this simple task, they just might believe the unknowns in life might just not be so hard to surmount. They just might not be be afraid of the darkness of life.

The perceived necessity of a nightlight has brought biological consequences as well. Mary Carskadon, a professor at Brown University, who is known for her research on sleep, explains that melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep, is only produced in the darkness. Therefore, a nightlight interferes with the bodily process of sleep. Nightlights could possibly account for multiple sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or insomnia.

With a little gentle encouragement, parents can prepare their children for the adventure of life by allowing them to face the small fears of their year. With accumulated experience and instruction, children can learn how to face their fears in the “darkness,” realizing things might just not be as bad as they think that it is not as bad as they think. This assurance can help them to grow in confidence and deal with whatever challenges come their way. Without a nightlight, they will also get better sleep, which will positively affect their daily lives.