One of the biggest news stories to emerge in Canada this week comes from a segment of the public outraged that an Amber Alert about Riya Rajkumar, broadly-issued by police late Wednesday night, “unnecessarily disrupted” their sleep.

I won’t offer my own version of the various articles and opinion pieces that highlight the importance and effectiveness of Amber Alerts (though, sadly, this one did not save a young girl’s life), why they need to cover lots of territory, the importance of community, and the case to fine those who flooded 911 call centres with complaints about the disruption to their sleep. Nor will I spend time countering articles which suggest Amber Alerts—and their cancellation follow-ups—will inspire apathy among the public.

However, there is one argument that seems to have been lost in the two outrages that I do want to address: Smartphone owners don’t know how to use their phones, or they are so attached to the need to be needed (by people or at the very least by their devices) that they cling to notifications for the satisfying hit of dopamine they might otherwise miss.

To be clear, I am no smartphone hero or snob, nor do I judge smartphone dependence as I suffer from my own. However, there are two relatively simple options available to anyone who does not wish to be disturbed in the night by unwelcome notifications by third parties.


Turn your phone off or put it into “airplane mode” when you go to bed. It is worth noting, though, that the Amber Alert and all other notifications will chime in next time your phone is connected to the wireless network.


Place your phone into “do not disturb mode,” or program it to go into “do not disturb mode” automatically, to protect blocks of your time from disruption. All alerts (save maybe tornado warnings) received during this time will be silenced, waiting only for you to notice them at your convenience the next time you pick up your phone. If there are certain people you do not wish to block from reaching you by phone or text, even when “do not disturb” is enabled (e.g. your spouse, children, alarm company, etc.), you can add their phone numbers and text accounts to your favourites.