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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.

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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.
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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

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.

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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.

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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…

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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?
Yes.

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.

References

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 parenting.com

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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.
Tali

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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.

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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.

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