As a teenager, you may have taken advantage of weekends and summers, not so much to run free, but to get extra sleep. If you slept in till noon, you weren’t alone. Sleep is as important to well-being as eating well, getting enough water, and breathing. This is especially true during the teenage years, as the body goes through significant changes that require enough sleep to not only perform the typical overnight processes within the body but also to catch up from exhaustion based on hormonal variations and to support rapid growth and other issues related to the physical and mental development of a teen.

But the most common issue affecting the quality of rest in teens today is technology. They are constantly “plugged in” and most even go to bed with their smart devices. IT’s a proven fact that the signals from smartphones, tablets, and wifi signals can seriously mess with your cognitive sleep process. So how can technology be reversed and used to help?

Limiting Technology

Your teenager will buck against the idea of shutting down phones, game consoles, and television, but this can be essential to his or her health in terms of getting the necessary sleep. Setting a particular amount of time allowed for each technological device, as well as limiting the hours of the day that they are allowed to be in use, can prove essential to ensuring your child is able to fall asleep and stay asleep. Improved resting habits lead to better physical, mental, and emotional health.

Know that teens can be slick, and you may not know that they are using computers and other devices outside of the allowed time slots. Prevent your teen from sneaking some extra time late at night by using parental controls. You can limit the amount of use on any device, as well as the type of use (barring particular websites, apps, etc.), and control when your teen is able to use those devices with Screen.

Turning off these devices a couple of hours before bedtime and limiting the amount of use can help your teen engage in a bedtime ritual that leads to ease of falling asleep and allows them to stay asleep. They won’t be as stimulated, and there won’t be temptation to get up and use these devices during hours of resting.

playing-games at night

How Much Sleep Does Your Teen Need?
Research shows that teens, on average, need a full 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. Of course, this can be problematic because the bodily clock in a teenager naturally shifts to later hours, both falling asleep and waking up. In fact, it is normal for your teenager to have trouble falling asleep before 11:00 p.m.

Other factors lead to the reduction of sleep as well, including a fascination with technology. Teens are naturally social creatures, and they want to be with friends as often as possible. Years ago, we only had phones to keep us in contact, but today, technology has created multiple means of getting tied up with social activities late into the night from your own bedroom. Your teen likely engages in Facebook, Skyping, and other computer activities that allow them to chat with friends. They may also be streaming movies into the wee hours or gaming on consoles that are connected through the internet, with headsets so they can play with others.

Technology can be a great help in many ways, but when it comes to your teen’s sleep patterns, it can also be detrimental to his or her health. Spending too much time on electronic devices, whether personally or in a social setting, can keep the mind stimulated rather than allowing the relaxation necessary to fall asleep and stay asleep. In addition, the draw to such devices promotes a carelessness about sleep. Why should I go to bed? I’m not tired, and my friends are still awake. Teenage reasoning often works this way.

How Much Sleep is Your Teen Getting?
You’ll know if your teenager isn’t getting enough sleep. Sure, all teens are dealing with changes to their hormones, general growing pains, and an evolution in the psyche as it develops and matures. But a teenager who is not getting the vital sleep he or she needs will be particularly moody. In fact, you’ll find your teen having extreme difficulty getting along with friends and constantly at odds with the family.

A lack of sleep in teenagers also manifests in school. Grades drop due to mental exhaustion, causing an inability to focus. Your child may even be falling asleep in class because a brain starved for sleep will get what it needs, regardless of the environment. If your child participates in any sports, his or her performance will suffer due to physical exhaustion.

Addressing the Problem
There are a number of ways you can assist your teen in creating healthy sleep habits. It is essential to start with the basics, including helping your child set limits – create a bedtime and wake time, and make sure your teen sticks to it, and avoid screen time at least two hours before bed.

Help your teenager assure that their bedroom is a sleep haven. Muted colors, dim lights, and a comfortable bed can really aid in sleeping comfortably. You might even provide some source of white noise (a fan on low, a humidifier, etc.) that helps comfort the subconscious mind.

Help your teen get into the habit of sleeping better. It will improve their cognitive abilities, physical health, and mood, all of which in turn makes your life more manageable and the time you spend with your teenager more enjoyable. Take into consideration that these are crucial formative years, and take the necessary steps to ease the stress of being a teenager for your child.

How’s this for a factoid: The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a recent study by Microsoft, people lose concentration after a mere eight seconds. That’s down from 12 seconds just 15 years ago, a precipitous drop. That’s right, the digital age has left us less able to focus than a creature with gills.
Screens of every sort—cellphones, tablets, desktops—are splitting our attention. Each screen, with its links and distractions (often irrelevant but almost always irresistible), eats away at our ability to think coherently Magnify that by multitasking with multi screens, and it’s a wonder we can hold a thought for long at all. Then add to that our addiction to devices and the withdrawal symptoms we suffer when we have to go without. It’s like that mirror-in-a-mirror effect. And the younger generation has it the worst, according to the study. When asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” 77 percent of people under 24 said “yes,” compared with only 10 percent of people over 65.
Today’s tweens and teens spend up to nine hours a day on TVs and computers, tablets and cell phones, excluding school and homework. But even when they’re using devices to study, screens are still eroding our children’s ability to concentrate, says Martin Kutscher, MD, author of the book Digital Kids: How to Balance Screen Time, and Why it Matters. I call it digital attention deficit disorder, and Dr. Kutscher explained exactly how and why it’s happening.
One teacher survey found that 90 percent of them feel technology has created a distracted generation of students with short attention spans. And there’s good reason for that, says Dr. Kutscher: “For one, screens lack the tactile experience, which helps you absorb material. Two, hypertexts lead you to jump from one spot to another, while research has shown that people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more. Third, moving around from author to author, or subject to subject—the average web page holds a reader for all of 18 seconds—leads to shallow reading. There’s less time for them to stop and ponder what they’ve just read, or think and reason logically.”

And all that happens when our kids are using just a single device. Figure in multitasking with texts, social media or music while doing homework—which, regrettably, is the new normal—and the problems multiply. “There’s a triple whammy,” says Dr. Kutscher. “First, there is the time to answer the interruption. Second, there is the tremendously wasteful waste of time as your kid regains where he or she was before the interruption. Third, the brain is further slowed down by the energy and stress expended from the whiplash of switching from one activity to another.” The bottom line? As much as our kids think multitasking is efficient and timesaving, it’s actually the opposite. They’ll get their homework done faster, and retain more, if they unplug.

What’s more, the digital downside goes way beyond middle and high school, says Dr. Kutscher. He cites the famous “marshmallow test” of the 1970’s, when kids were offered a treat and told that they could eat it right away, or, if they waited alone for fifteen minutes, they would get two. Follow-up studies until age 40 showed that those children who could control their attention and delay gratification fared better in life, from SAT scores to keeping friends to a healthier body mass index. “When parents teach their kids to get themselves out of the gravitational pull of the screen, we’re helping them develop one of life’s most important skills,” Dr. Kutscher says.

So how do we do that? First, by realizing it’s not our children’s fault if we as parents fail to set limits on their screen time. Second, by cutting ourselves some slack, since we’re the first generation to have to tackle this task and we don’t have a playbook to guide us. Lastly, by doing the work. That means gathering the family, having a conversation and setting up screen time rules together. The app I’ve created, Screen, which lets you remotely control your children’s devices, makes it easy for your family to come up with a contract and stick to it, putting an end to the skirmishes of constantly trying to enforce the rules. And it’s an equal opportunity app—it holds you to same rules as your kids. Which means everyone can’t stop hunching over the screens, sit up and pay attention.


What is it?
‘Vault app’ or ‘ghost app’ lets you store and manage private photos, videos, text messages, voice recording, notes, documents and other files, and stash them in secret folders. For a teen – it’s an opportunity and a liability!

A quick search for them on both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store reveals dozens of listings for these types of apps. The majority of them are disguised as simple calculators or puzzles.

So What’s the Problem?
The use of these apps for sexting is increasing in schools across the nation. One episode in a high school in Colorado had at least 100 students involved in sending nude pictures of themselves, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.
It is important for parents and kids to know that it may look harmless but storing or sharing nude photographs is a crime.

credit DeathtoStock_Wired10

What can you do?

Talk, talk, talk.

Start a conversation with your child about privacy. Let them know that things that go on the Internet or are shared via smartphones last forever and can be shared with anyone.
Their need for a vault app could be just part of their technology curiosity. However, it still requires your parental guidelines.

• Talk to your child about using phones responsibly. Explain that you respect their privacy, but you need to keep them safe.
• Remind them that taking and/or sharing embarrassing or revealing pictures often comes back to haunt people.
• Could it be a sign for a different issue?! Consider that kids might not be trying to hide photos from you but from nosy friends. Try and see if you can understand the reason.
• Use a family app store account that notifies you when your child downloads a new app.

Tip: on iOS there is an easy way to reveal any camera apps disguised as something else.
By checking the apps that uses camera, as we all know a calculator does not require access to the camera.
Settings >> Privacy >> Camera.

Don’t say my kids will never use them, as they are also appeal to kids who do not have much to hide.
Start the conversation sooner rather than later.


Image credit cyberbullying.org

As parents, the desire to protect our children from harm is there from day one. But once they reach their tweens, it seems our kids are especially vulnerable. They’re on the cusp of adolescence, navigating the rough waters of middle school, dealing with so many changes in their bodies and minds. And in the digital age, it’s the time when another threat looms—cyberbullying.

The average kid in the U.S. gets their first cell phone and starts going online, including social media, at 11 years old, and that’s what opens the door to cyberbullying. Someone texts, emails or posts a mean comment, vicious remark or an unflattering photo or video—anonymously, of course—to a friend or two. Then they share it with others, and so on and so on, instantly creating an endless, inescapable, 24/7 loop of insults, nastiness and online bashing targeted at one very young, very vulnerable, very defenseless person. Just the thought of it breaks your heart.

And chances are, your tween or teen has been swept up in the tide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 52% of students say they’ve been cyberbullied; 33% say they’ve experienced it online, 25% have been targeted repeatedly through their cell phones, and 11% have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken without their permission.


But even if your child isn’t a victim, that doesn’t mean they’re not very much a part of the problem: According to a Pew Internet Research Center report, 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social network site; 66% have witnessed others joining in; and, alarmingly, 22% of teens who see online bashing say they have joined in the harassment themselves. But even the vast majority of teens who don’t actively side with the haters and trolls aren’t entirely innocent. Nine out of ten kids say they simply ignore taunts and cruelty when they see it. That passivity is a natural reaction, especially when you’re witnessing the bullying at a virtual remove and you simply don’t know what to do, but it has its costs: Joining the crowd of onlookers is exactly what bullies thrive on. The more views for their viciousness, the better.

I’ve thrown a lot of daunting facts and figures at you, but here’s a few more you should know. Studies have found that kids are who are heavy cell phone and mobile device users are more likely to engage in cyberbullying or be bullied themselves. And let’s face it, in today’s world, where tweens spend six hours a day on their screens and teens spend nine, that means they’re all vulnerable.

What’s a parent to do? We can’t close the door on cyberbullying, but we can keep it at bay. That’s one of the reasons I created Screen, an app that lets parents remotely enforce healthy time limits on all of your kids’ devices. Reduce screen time, and you’ll reduce the risks. But hopefully that’s just the start. Most kids don’t talk to their parents about cyberbullying; they keep it hidden. Make sure your child has an adult that they rust and can go to when needed. Start a conversation — about cyberbullying, staying safe, being a responsible digital citizen, and so much more.

By @TaliOrad

On a previous post I wrote about the first step in setting up a family’s media diet, which is incorporating a weekly Electronic Day.

I’d love to hear your feedback about that. Meanwhile, I want to continue with my story…
Our Electronic Days were implemented and working great, almost ideally. Everyone followed the rules but – and this is a big but – as the kids got older, then came the personal mobile devices.
We started with smart phones, because they were, for us, safety tools for essential communication. I could reach them when I needed to, and they could always reach me; It wasn’t long, however, before the kids started to abuse it:
“Mom, I’m just texting my friend.”
“Mom, I need to check my homework.”
“Mom, it’s a cool game, and everyone in my class has it”
“I’m in the middle of a battle!”
Me: “What battle? Oh, the (app) one on your phone…”
“Mom, I’m going to sleep soon, just one thing…” – at 2 a.m. in the morning!!!

We all know why (or at least one reason why) those little devices are being abused, and it’s hard to control that. Our kids spend too much time on those devices. And let’s face it, we are not “on” our kids 24/7, so we can’t (and most of us don’t want to) monitor every move they make; they need to learn to make the right choices on their own.

So what can we do – besides taking the phones away for good or switching to a “dumb” phone?
Simple. Find it a “Home.”

We set a place where we put all personal mobile devices to be charged and stored. That’s their “Home.”

Choose this location wisely. Make sure it’s a common location;
Why a common location? Because they will think twice before abusing electronics knowing everyone sees them doing that.
You can decide what works for you: the living room, the dining room. For us, it’s the kitchen…. As long as it’s a common location. When the kids get home, they place their mobile devices there. Now, when they try to abuse them (for example by sneaking one away when they shouldn’t), we know, and we can decide what to do about that.

I even took this concept to the next level and bought a charging station. We have iPads, mobile phones, Kindles – you name it – and all are charged and stored there.
Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 4.17.58 PM
credit Amazon

A new “Home” for the personal devices with the excuse of charging can go a long way. Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you.

In the meantime, be well and experience life!
Tali, Team Screen

By @TaliOrad

glasses credit Ray Ban

We don’t need this Ray Ban’s glasses ad to realize we have a problem!

Our team from all over the world took pictures of people on their devices. We were (not) surprised to see where kids and adults took their devices.
The vet’s office, Starbucks with friends, the nail salon, dinner. Some were even on their phones while enjoying a live band, our (not) favorite one is the lead singer took a phone out while the band kept on playing…

vet-c credit Tali Orad

starbucks1c credit Tali Orad

starbucks2c credit Shahar Michel

menicure credit Tali Orad

IMG_1353c credit Tali Orad

Do you see yourself in any of these photos?

We challenge you to take a screen break and enjoy the moment, spend time with your friend, have dinner as a family while all devices are away.


By @TaliOrad

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.

By @TaliOrad

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…

By @TaliOrad

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…

By @TaliOrad

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.


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