image credit © AlbertoPomares/iStockPhotos

When talking about multitasking experts refers to switchtasking and background tasking.
What’s the difference?
Switchtasking (or multitasking) is attempting to do multiple attention-requiring tasks at the same time. Each switch in attention incurs switching cost, which includes a loss of time, decrease in performance, and an increase in stress levels. When most people say they are “multitasking,” they are most often referring to switchtasking.
Background tasking is performing a task while something mindless or mundane occurs in the background. For examples: doing homework while listening to music. Background tasking can improve productivity overall.
Multitasking is neither a good thing nor a bad thing…it simply does not exist! The question is, are you background tasking, which may improve productivity, or are you switchtasking, which always harms productivity.

Quoting Dr Marin Kutcher’s book Digital Kids: How to Balance Screen Time, and Why it Matters “…You can’t type a text into your smartphone and read a school book at the same time! Every time we get interrupted, we not only lose time while we attend to the interruption (answering the text or posting on Facebook), but research shows that it actually takes anywhere from one to twenty additional minutes just to get back to where you were when interrupt”. Adding that “we all need to learn that ‘multitasking’ actually makes the work go less efficiently and ultimately leaves us LESS free time, not more.”

Complete the Myth of Multitasking challenge by Dave Crenshaw. We gave it to students ages elementary and middle school, and were amazed by the results, as it takes twice as much time when doing that to complete a task. Try it, and let us know how was it for you.

Image credit Cam King

1. Encourage technology free time. And when it’s that time, turn their phones to ‘airplane mode’ and have them sign off for a little bit.

2. This is our favorite – Turn off ‘push notifications’ on their phone.

3. Avoid Social media when it’s time to do other activities.

4. Give them a dedicated time to play on the phone in the evening. If possible have them use the Yellow Glasses for a better night sleep.

5. Remove your phone from your bedroom at night.

6. Pick up a book instead of your phone.

7. Go hang outside, and yes – keep the phone at the house.

8. Suggest to him/her to stack all phones at place by the dinner table (not on it) while out enjoying coffee, frozen yogurt, or pizza with their friends.

9. Can you go somewhere without using the GPS? Challenge them to look up directions before they leave the house.

10. Use the phone only for music streaming, no videos, no nothing – just them and their music. Relax!

Let us know how it goes…

As parents increasingly rely on screens and mobile devices as babysitters, their children, whether toddlers or tweens, are paying the price.

Fact is, putting a tablet in a young child’s hand is no substitute for parent/child interaction.There’s an important difference between young children passively consuming media on a screen, no matter how educational the content, and actively using it to communicate. Watching a video isn’t the same, for instance, as Skyping or Facetiming with grandparents . It’s human interaction that enables vital brain development during the pre-toddler years. What’s more, children learn better with materials they can touch versus what they see on screen. In other words, learning concepts in three dimensions is far more effective than two.

When parents don’t spend time talking to babies and toddlers, it creates a major gap in their language skills. But increasingly parents are also using their own screens to tune out from older children. A small study at Boston Medical Center found that about 75% of adults took out a mobile device almost immediately when they were eating with their kids at a fast food restaurant. In another study, children reported that they felt frustrated and were more likely to act out when their parents were on devices.

The consequences of too much screen time are even greater with tweens and teens. Kids need face-to-face social interaction to develop empathy and sensitivity to others. A 2014 UCLA study found that compared to peers who spend hours a day glued to their devices, 6th graders who spent five days at a nature camp where they had to give up their smartphones, tv or other digital screens were better able to read human emotions and identify feelings, whether happy or angry, sad or scared, when they looked at people in photographs and videos.

Screen overload also takes a toll on kids’ academic performance. According to research by British scientists, teens who spend just one extra hour a day on the internet, watching TV or playing computer games saw their exam scores
drop two grades (from say, a B to D). And research conducted by MIT professor and clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle, author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age,” finds that college students, with their ubiquitous phones, “are having a harder time with the give-and-take of face-to-face conversation.”

So what can we do?
Set limits, offer alternative to screen time, and set an example…

Does Technology Interfere with Classroom Learning?

texting in class

According to one teacher survey regarding the problem with technology in schools (Washington Post 2013):
• Nearly 90% of teachers felt technology has created a distracted generation with short attention spans.
• 60% felt it hindered writing and face-to-face communication; i.e., communication with full sentences and longer has lost out to short snippets in writing or media.
• Almost 50% felt it hurt critical thinking and homework ability.
• 76% felt students were conditioned to find quick answers.

In short, technology is changing the way our students learn, and not always for the better.

In another survey, university students were asked how often they use their cell phones while in class for non-class related uses (Baron 2015). The average college student reported such use 11 times daily. 15% of students used their cell more than thirty times during class. All of this activity comes at a price in learning. In one study, students who sent text messages while watching a lecture had exam scores 19% below those who did not text (Thompson 2014).

When students were asked themselves about texting during class time, the following percent of them agreed or strongly agreed:
• 77% felt that receiving text messages hurts my ability to learn during lecture.
• 72 % felt that sending text messages hurts my ability to learn during lecture.
• 37% felt that they get distracted when someone else receives a text during class.
• 31% felt that they get distracted when someone else sends a text during class.

Thus, students recognize that texting in school not only interferes with their own learning, but also interferes with other student’s attention—yet 49% of them still felt it was okay to text during class (Rosen, 2012).
Not surprisingly, allowing web access (i.e., not just texting access) to students during a lecture doesn’t fare well, either. One group of students was allowed to surf the web during class, and the other kept their laptop closed. Students did indeed look at lecture related sites, but also went shopping, watched videos, and caught up on e-mail. Even those students who surfed only on topics related to the lecture showed significantly worse memory of the lecture’s content than those who kept their laptop closed (Carr 2011).

Yet, multiple studies reveal that the majority of students say that they use their electronic devices during class to text, browse, or consume media. The results of these studies agree with my own informal survey of my patients who, when asked, almost uniformly say that students are using the classroom laptops/iPads for non-educational activities. Even those who have monitored or limited Internet access still use their laptops for offline gaming. If an adult comes around, they simply hit a button which switches the screen to a legitimate activity. The CD (remember those?) version of MAD magazine even contains a “panic button” which, if pressed when an adult checks in, pulls up a Word document that reads something to the effect that, “I can’t believe my parents fell for this again.” School systems that are switching to all digital experiences for their students must ask themselves if the advantages are worth the distractions.

Written by Dr Martin Kutcher

    Martin L. Kutscher, M.D. is board certified in Pediatrics and in Neurology, with Special Competency in Child Neurology. He lectures internationally, author of several book in that subject including his latest book Digital Kids: How to Balance Screen Time, and Why it Matters. We are proud to have Dr. Kutcher as our Board Adviser.


Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 1.51.22 PMLike many people, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. First, because we always have a great meal! Second, it’s a time when we disconnect from our busy lives and hopefully our screens, and reconnect with friends and family we may not see as often as we’d like.

Thanksgiving reminds me and my family to be grateful for each other and our blessings. While we should make time each day to be grateful, we’re often stressed and distracted by the day to day goings on. So, Thanksgiving is the perfect day to stop, and reconnect. One tradition my family enjoys is to go around the table and share a nice story or memory about another member. My family always share the same story about me, remembering the first time I cooked the turkey, or to be more specific, what happened after…but this is a humiliation for another time

For now, I’m looking forward to planning meals, cooking, reading about the holiday, creating crafts, giving thanks and, and most importantly, disconnecting from screens to reconnect with loved ones.

Here are some family activities for a screen ­free holiday I would like to share with you.

Thanksgiving Crafts – Tabletop Turkey

One fun craft that makes an adorable dinner table decoration (and kids love) is the Tabletop Turkey, posted on

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1. Paint a paper cup brown. Turn the cup upside down & glue a pom­pom to the top of the cop for the head.

2. Cut nine 4­ inch leaf shapes from different colors of construction paper. Fold a 1­inch­ square piece of orange construction paper in half; cut a triangle shape out of the folded paper for the beak. Using a 2­inch square of red paper folded in half, cut a heart shape to create the turkey’s wattle.

3. Glue the beak and wattle to the pom­pom. Add googly eyes. Glue on the “feathers.”
Here is a link to some other ideas.

Thanksgiving and Cooking

Get the kids off the game consoles and into mash potatoes preparations. Here is Julia Moskin’s mash potatoes recipe.

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Put a large pot of water on to boil, adding a tablespoon of salt for each gallon of water. While the water heats, peel the largest potatoes you have (two per person is a good rule of thumb) and roughly cut into large chunks, about the size of a jumbo egg. Boil until tender all the way through.
Meanwhile, heat any flavorings (buttermilk, milk, cream, butter, stock) you plan to add. When potatoes are tender, scoop out and set aside a cup of cooking water. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot. Place over low heat and shake until most of the steam has dissipated. Add some of your flavorings, mash, and taste. Add salt. Repeat until mashed and seasoned to your liking. Adjust the texture with cooking water. Serve immediately or cover tightly and set aside for up to 30 minutes.

Here are some more ideas from the New York Times for your holiday dinner.

Board games
While you and the kids are cooking, your guests are probably watching the game on the TV. If you bring out some classic board games, chances are good everyone will put down the remote and team up for some friendly competition. Everyone’s got a favorite – for my family it’s Monopoly, Apples to Apples, and Rummikub.

Whether you are hosting or traveling, I wish you and your love ones a happy & enjoyable Thanksgiving.

Just now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children ages 18 month and under have no exposure to screens, and that kids older than two should limit screen time to 2 hours a day. But that policy was drafted before the first generation iPad, and even the AAP now acknowledges that policy is obsolete.

Screen addiction isn’t yet a clinical diagnosis in the US, but is at some countries and we’re edging toward that. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, 8 to 10-year olds spend some 8 hours a day glued to their smartphones, tablets, computers and TV. For tweens and teens, it’s about 12 hours. And given that the study was in 2010, it’s safe to assume those numbers are climbing. By comparison, U.S. adults are spending an average of 11 hours and 52 minutes a day with media (five hours for digital media, 2 1/2 hours on mobile devices for activities other than phone calls.

What’s more, our kids are getting hooked earlier than ever. A new survey presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies in April found that infants just six months old were already logging half an hour day on mobile devices, and not just watching cartoons. A third were swiping and tapping screens. By age two, kids are using tablets and smartphones, sometimes while glued to the TV. In fact, more than 30% of kids in the US first play with a mobile device while they’re still in diapers, according to Common Sense Media. And about a quarter of all teens admit using the phones constantly, according to the Pew Research Center.

Talk to parents, and you’ll get an even clearer picture: In a recent survey of 800 American moms and dads of kids aged 2 to 12, 56% of them say it’s typical for their kids to be watching different content on different devices at the same time. And kids have to get their daily fix: A majority of those parents—41%—said their child would choose their tablet over dessert.

But parents are also partly to blame. Despite their concern about screen overload, two thirds of parents said they had no rules limiting their children’s screen time, according to the Kaiser study. And a recent Harris Poll found another big disconnect in parental attitudes: While 58% say that monitoring kids screen time is important, 59% say they don’t feel guilty about using mobile devices as a babysitter. Dads feel this way more than moms, as do parents aged 45 and over compared to millennial parents aged 18-34.

What can we do, set limit and set an example, and set boundaries for technology. Balance between technology and real life is the key.


The American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated policy statement on screen-time guidelines for parents & children. We thought we should share them with you.

  • Guidance for Technology Use by Age 
  •   ■ Not for 18 month & under Discourage screen media exposure for children younger than 18 month of age.
  •   ■ 18-24 month 1 hour a day. Don’t use it as a sitter. Skype is ok…
  •   ■ 1-5 years old Limit to 1 hour a day.
  •   ■ Older kids Try to minimize use to 2 hours a day.
  • Out of sight out of mind
  • Keep the TV set and Internet connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom.
  • Transparency
  • Monitor what media children are using and accessing, including any Web sites they are visiting and social media sites they may be using.
  • Togetherness
  • If possible Choose high-quality programming. Co-view TV, movies, and videos with children and teenagers, and use this as a way of discussing important family values.
  • Family rules for all devices
  • Establishing a family media plan for all media. As part of the plan, enforce a mealtime and bedtime “curfew” for media devices, including cell phones.
  • Establish reasonable but firm rules about cell phones, texting, Internet, and social media use.

And we saved the best for last, lead by example. Put your device down every once-in-a-while, be present for your kids without a screen.

Playing Clue - Photograph by Sharon Feldman

Playing Clue – Photograph by Sharon Feldman

“It was Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Candlestick!”

Clue.  A timeless board game.  A staple of family night for decades.  A Sherlock Holmes showdown.  Once the most highly anticipated snow day activity, now forgotten by the new age.  The screen age.

This past Friday night I was charged with the babysitting duties for my 13 year old brother and his two friends.  As we licked clean our plates from take-out Chinese, we pondered our after dinner options.

“We can play Wii” my little brother exclaimed.

“We can watch TV,” his friend said.

“I don’t care….” The last one muttered.

Stuck in babysitter limbo and with no clear direction to navigate this evening, I proposed that we all play Clue.

“Clue? What’s that?” his friend asked.

“A board game! My childhood favorite!” I exclaimed.

“That’s going to take an hour…” my brother moaned.

Before anyone said another word, I marched up to the game cupboard and lay the game smack on the table in front of them.  They looked at the dust covered gawky box as if it were some anachronistic alien.  So I made the first move, setting up each piece and explaining the rules/strategy to them as they struggled to listen.  I was not going to budge, however.  No matter how much they rolled their eyes and looked down at their phones, we were going to get through this game the old fashion way.  No smartphones, no distractions.  We only had the spirit of competition and a burning curiosity as our glue.   

As the game progressed, our eyes were locked.  Nobody made a move for their phone.  Nobody even left to go to the bathroom.  We were disconnected, and it was absolutely beautiful.

When the game ceased and I began to fold up the board, the kids pleaded with me to play again.  Unable to say no, we embarked on a board game marathon into the night.  For hours, we talked, we laughed and bonded with one another.     

This night taught my brother and his friends both a simple and valuable lesson about conversation and togetherness.  On a normal evening by the ‘screen age’ standards, kids play video games, check social media, or browse the internet.  While these activities seemingly connect kids with more people than ever before, kids have never been more alone.  As the sources of entertainment become so short term and so instantaneous, it has become nearly impossible to enjoy the experience with those around you.  When screens become the primary source of interaction, it is as if nobody is even there.  Nobody talks, nobody laughs, nobody even moves.  By putting their phones down for a short hour, however, these kids spent an evening laughing, thinking, and competing with each other.  It was beautiful to see as a group of kids connected over a simple board game.  By being present in the room, not in the cloud, they experienced a true sense of togetherness.  I hope that they take this night and this feeling with them far into the future.  Funny what a board game can do to people.  Stratego is next!


By Reed Feldman / Bates College 19’

Screen’s guest blogger

Technology at night

As parents, do you remember the sleepless nights we endured the first few months after we brought our little bundles of joy home?

For many of us, we relied on caffeine, cat naps, and the promise of better nights to come to get us through those exhausting days. With a cruel and surprising sense of humor, our older children are still fighting us on sleep schedules and sleeping soundly through the night. While they are not needing a midnight feeding, many of our older children and teens are losing sleep at night due to technology usage and their digital devices.

The Nightmare Digital Devices Pose

The glow of our children’s beloved electronics and plethora of screens can disrupt the circadian rhythms that affect their sleep-wake cycles. Children’s bodies are naturally programmed to interpret light and dark as signals to fall asleep or be alert. There is an abundance of research and collected data that proves the light emitted from Smartphones, gaming systems, computers, and even televisions can mix brain signals causing our kids to miss out on vital sleep.

Besides biology, many of our children keep their devices next to their beds to ensure they won’t miss out on any updates or messages. This “FOMO” (fear of missing out) effects 56 percent of all social media users including our kids. Every ping or alert can interfere with the natural sleep cycle, waking a child several times a night.

The Importance Of Sleep

Parents know the power of a good night’s sleep and so do the experts. According to researchers, more than 90 percent of American teens are chronically deprived of sleep with only a mere 9 percent of high school students meeting the recommended nine hours of sleep. With numbers like those, it is fairly safe to say that our children are seriously sleep deprived.

Children need quality deep sleep to help regulate growth hormones and maintain optimal functioning while awake. This includes reasoning, emotions, and decision making skills. One study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found a correlation between every lost hour of sleep and a 38 percent increase in feelings of sadness and a 58 percent jump in attempted suicide.

Teens and children who don’t get enough sleep tend to be more likely to experience inattention, poor impulse control, and hyperactivity. A lack of sleep can interfere with a child’s behavior and performance in school. If the mental risks of sleep deprivation aren’t frightening enough, long-term effects can be seen in higher risks of obesity and chances of developing diabetes. If a child already suffers from health issues, a loss of sleep can magnify these health issues.


Sleeping at school Protecting A Child’s Sleep From Digital Devices

Even though we can no longer swaddle our children to help them get a good night’s sleep, we can help avoid our children from using digital devices when they are supposed to be sleeping. Please consider the following six suggestions to help children and teens get quality sleep every evening:

Ditch the technology 30 minutes before bedtime. To promote sleep, encourage family members to power down technology before you turn down the covers.

Control the wi-fi. Call your network provider or read the wireless router directions for parental controls that are available. Many parental controls allow you to restrict certain websites during specific hours or require a password to gain access.

Limit available data or minutes on wireless handheld devices. This strategy might not prevent children from going online at night, but it will force them to be more responsible with the time they are allotted.

Create a docking or charging station by the front door. This has two benefits. A child will keep their devices out of their room and morning routines will flow smoothly without everyone dashing around looking for lost phones or wayward chargers.

Consider implementing a family technology contract that includes night time usage. By laying out the expectations and consequences, you can prevent future problems from developing.

Restrict phones or devices from bedrooms. In our highly connected world it is important to give children down time from electronics. Institute a family policy that all devices need to stay in common living areas.

Screen’s Night Time Feature: A Solution For Parents

The Screen solution have a night time option built in. It allows parents to control device time and assure that sleep time is device free. Screen allows a parent to set healthy limits on all electronic devices your family uses every day, while encouraging the family discussion around technology usage.

What methods does your family utilize to avoid kids using their digital devices at night?


About the author:
Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist who specialized in the digital world. As a graduate of NorthWestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism, she’s combines her love of technology, gadgets, and bulldogs with a career in freelance writing to make the world a more enlightened place.

Back-to-School1School is open, yeah!!! I can’t tell you how much I missed those school days!

The yellow school busses, the rush of getting ready in the morning, the kids’ stories from school, but most of all I missed the routine.
I think I am not the only one, my kids missed their routing as well (don’t ask them because they’ll never admit that).
Waking up at a regular hour (not so much the process of waking them up as my kids are not the early bird type), having structured activities, dinner at the same time, and bedtime in a regular hour.
As much as my kids will never admit that, I know they missed that too.

While on summer break, schedule was fluid and with it screen time was fluid. They ended up consuming screens for more than I want them to.
Whenever they were board their goto was a screen. Summer in NY is a challenge. Between the heat and the thunder it’s not always easy to go outside, but that should never be an excuse as it never stopped us!
Now summer is over, and we are back at school. Which gives us an opportunity for a change, or better, a change back to a routine. With that routine comes our routine boundaries.

One afternoon after school, we sat down as a family and spoke about what should be our screen time rules.
As school time enables my family to enforce screen time rules again, these are the rules we came up with:
No screens while eating.
No screens while sleeping.
No screens while doing homework.

Take advantage of the new school year and think of what are your home rules for screens and set them.
It’s easier than you think, and settings them together helps get the kids to buy into them even more.
For a great school year to us all!

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