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Posts Tagged ‘digital wellness’

As I recently reminisced with a group of friends, interwoven in our conversation were comments about our use of technology when we were teens. We wrote letters to one another instead of sending emails. We made very short long-distance calls rather than texting. We even took photos on a camera with film that had to be developed!

In the last week I have become the parent of a teenager. This is a time of transition in my parenting style. We want to raise young people who can not only function on their own but make good and wise choices and be of benefit to others and society. Therefore, we should be well-informed parents on the topics below when it comes to teens and screens.

Cyberbullying: Bullying is a tale as old as time, but technology allows for increased opportunities to harass others without limitations of time and space. This often leads to silent and continued suffering for teens. One of the best resources that I have found on this topic is from the Cyberbullying Research Center. This is co-directed by two professors of criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin and Florida Atlantic University.

They define cyberbullying as: “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. This includes incidents where adolescents use technology to harass, threaten, humiliate, or otherwise hassle their peers.” According to their research over the past 13 years, 28 percent of students have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetimes.

Online predators: A 2014 Oklahoma State University study explored teacher and counselors’ perceptions of preventing sexual assault from online predators. They identified five themes that contribute to this problem including lack of parental supervision, social networking websites and chat rooms, teenagers need for relationships, instant gratification among teenagers, and lack of education for parents. A Cornell University study from 2013 showed that many parents were underestimating risky online behavior of their children.

One idea I find particularly interesting is creating a family online safety contract with expectations for both child/teen and parents. There are lots of examples to set the stage for some great discussions about boundaries. Having “parental controls” turned on is not the same as having conversations with your tweens and teens about expectations while online.

The lingo: I laughed at a t-shirt I saw the other day that said, “No one prepares you for the transition from Ma-ma to Mommy to Mom to Bruh.” Teens have always had their own language. One way to decode or to better understand abbreviations and acronyms is through the Common Sense Education Digital Glossary or Cyberbullying Research Center Glossary. They can help you understand vamping and doxing, the difference between TikTok and Yik Yak, YOLO, FOMO, PAP and POS.

All in all, the worst thing we can do as parents is hand youth a tablet, phone or laptop and just hope they will be safe. We wouldn’t say, “Here’s a car. Drive it whenever you want, however you want, anywhere you want.” The most important thing we can do is to talk with our tweens and teens about the good and the bad and set clear expectations. Adolescents don’t think about the future or consequences the same way that adults do. That is why they have us in their lives. It is both a great privilege and challenge to be in this interdependent coaching phase of parenting a teen.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Cyberbullying Research Center (2020) Summary of Our Cyberbullying Research (2007-2019) https://cyberbullying.org/summary-of-our-cyberbullying-research

Baghurst, T., Alexander, R., Tapps, T. (2014) Academic Exchange Quarterly Winter Volume 18, Issue 1 Ways To Protect Students From Online Predators. http://rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/t5414v4.pdf

Segelken, H.R. Cornell Chronicle (October 202, 2013) Parents could be clueless about risky online behavior. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2013/10/parents-could-be-clueless-about-risky-online-behavior

PureSight Online Child Safety (2020) Family online safety contract. https://puresight.com/Useful-tools/family-online-safety-contract.html

Common Sense Education (2020) Digital Glossary. https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-glossary

Hinduja, S. and Patchin, J.W. Cyberbullying Research Center (2020) Glossary: Social Media, Cyberbullying, & Online Safety Terms To Know https://cyberbullying.org/social-media-cyberbullying-online-safety-glossary.pdf

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Today’s topic is one that comes up often in discussions on screen time: are video games safe for my children to play? It is a complicated question with no easy answer, but I wanted to share some of the latest research.

It is first helpful to define what we mean by a video game. Games have a wide variety of intended audiences and purposes. They range from education focused (like math or words games) to competitive skills games (like sports and racing) to those that are primarily focused on killing and violence. University of Minnesota Extension offers some positive results from the healthy, balanced use of video games. These include increasing motivation for children, quick and clear feedback about performance, and they can promote a feeling of mastery for their participants.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on research about violent games, because these are usually the games parents and grandparents are most concerned about.

First off be familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings listed on the box. E is appropriate for Everyone, age 6 and up. E+ is appropriate for ages 10 and up. T means appropriate for Teens or youth age 12 and up. M ratings are for mature audiences and are not appropriate for any age youth. Parents are responsible to use these ratings, as most stores do not enforce them.

Over the past few years, there has been conflicting research data presented from media on the actual effects of playing violent video games. For decades, Brad Bushman at The Ohio State University has been studying this topic. In 2012 his study found that people who played a violent video game for three consecutive days showed increases in aggressive behavior and hostile expectations from others each day they played. Those who played nonviolent games did not. His more recent study last year found that children who played violent video games were more likely to play with real guns.

However, the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford recently found no relationship between aggressive behavior in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games. Experts from Common Sense Media cite there are lots of factors that will determine whether kids will become aggressive, antisocial, or apathetic towards others.

The following information from the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Violence Policy is incredibly helpful. “Some research has indicated that the context in which media violence is portrayed and consumed can make the difference between learning about violence and learning to be violent. Plays such as Macbeth and films such as Saving Private Ryan treat violence as what it is—a human behavior that causes suffering, loss, and sadness to victims and perpetrators. In this context, with helpful adult guidance on the real costs and consequences of violence, appropriately mature adolescent viewers can learn the danger and harm of violence by vicariously experiencing its outcomes.”

I have found the most recent research studies focus more on the “loss of good” behavior rather than the “increase of bad” behavior. Research at Loyola University Chicago compared the brains of gamers and non-gamers and results suggest chronic violent gameplay may affect emotional brain processing or ability to show empathy. Additionally, some of the actions players are able to do in the game simulations are concerning; especially with the treatment of women. I am personally surprised there are not more studies examining the potential of violent and sexually suggestive games as a gateway to domestic violence and pornography.

Be very familiar with any game your child is playing. Read up about it. And if you decide to exclude these games from your home, have an honest and open dialogue with your teen about why.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Olson, K.A. University of Minnesota Extension. (2009) Video games: A problem or a blessing? https://extension.umn.edu/communication-and-screen-time/video-games-problem-or-blessing

Entertainment Software Rating Board. (2020) https://www.esrb.org/ratings-guide/

Ohio State News. (December 9, 2012) Violent Video Games: More Playing Time Equals More Aggression. https://news.osu.edu/violent-video-games-more-playing-time-equals-more-aggression/

The Ohio State University School of Communication. (October 4, 2017) Bushman co-authors study on violent media and children’s interest in guns. https://comm.osu.edu/news/bushman-co-authors-study-violent-media-and-children%E2%80%99s-interest-guns

Przybylski, A.K. and Weinstein, N. Royal Society Open Science. Volume 6, Issue 2 (February 2019) Oxford Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.171474

Common Sense Media. (2014) Does exposure to violent movies or video games make kids more aggressive?  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/violence-in-the-media/does-exposure-to-violent-movies-or-video-games-make-kids-more-aggressive

Pediatrics Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2001) Media Violence. (https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/108/5/1222.full.pdf

Stockdale, L. Loyola University Chicago. (2015) The Influence of Media Violence on the Neural Correlates of Empathic Emotional Response https://ecommons.luc.edu/luc_diss/1495/

Photo: https://www.pickpik.com/video-controller-video-game-controller-remote-control-gaming-console-game-43645

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a young child using a laptop

Raising children in this ever-changing digital world can be a challenge. Some articles warn of the dangers of screens, while others urge us to help our kids keep up with technology. Caregivers are often actively encouraging these forms of passive entertainment, and electronic devices are always available as babysitters. Some factors for a child’s excess screen time could be the need for the caregiver to address everyday household activities or an exhausted caretaker who simply needs a break.

Too much screen time can have negative effects on children regardless of the device. So before turning that device over to your child, there are some things that you should consider first. According to Mayo Clinic, too much screen time can have unhealthy effects as a child grows and has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Attention deficit
  • Cognitive delays
  • Impaired learning
  • Violence

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages media use by children younger than 24 months. Video chatting with family and friends is an exception which is considered quality time interacting with others. Children between ages 2 and 5 should be limited to one hour or less a day of quality and educational programming. The following is suggested to ensure safe and quality screen time:

  • Do your homework: Research games and apps before getting them for your child. Search for games and apps that educators and doctors suggest. Organizations such as “Common Sense Media” can help you determine what is appropriate.
  • Always be present: Be with young children during screen time and interact with them.  Discuss what you are watching with your child.  
  • Schedule plenty of non-screen playtime:  Family meals and bedtimes are important times to put the screens away and interact with your child. Preschoolers learn by physically interacting with others and their surroundings.
  • Discourage screen use in your child’s bedroom or at bedtime: Screen use in the hour before bed can stimulate your child. The blue light from televisions, computers, tablets and phones might suppress melatonin levels and delay sleepiness.

You can help ensure a safe and healthy digital atmosphere by developing household rules. As your child ages, you will need to review and adjust the rules by deciding how much media your child should use each day and what is age appropriate.

a young child using a smart phone

As caregivers of young children, it can be hard to maintain a healthy family balance and keep up in these demanding times. Even elementary school-aged children have been completing school work online and participating in Zoom sessions, which has most likely increased their usual screen time. Now that the school year is ending, this could be a great transition opportunity to set device and screen time rules for the summer months.

Many of us can fall short when it comes sticking to device rules. Managing the use of screens and media will be an ongoing challenge as your child grows. You might have a rough day, week or even month, and it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Today is always a good day to try again.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County and Alonna Hoffman, Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development Program Assistant, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Mayo Clinic. (June 20, 2019) Screen time and children: How to guide your child. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/screen-time/art-20047952

American Academy of Pediatrics. (November 2016) Media and young minds. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162591

Common Sense Media https://www.commonsense.org/

Photo credits

https://pixabay.com/photos/boy-mobile-phone-addiction-phone-3360415/

https://pixabay.com/photos/baby-boy-child-childhood-computer-84626/

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A person using a laptop with a smart phone within reach

If there has ever been a time when we have realized the communication opportunities and flexibility that online platforms can provide, it is now. Many of us who are working from home are now using technology in ways we would never have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago. For some, telehealth visits have replaced traveling to see doctors and specialists in their offices. And many have been keeping in touch with friends and family using mobile phones or tablets. 

But even with all the productivity while staying at home, you have most likely experienced technology overload as well. Each year during the first week of May, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood promotes “Screen Free Week.” In response to our current situation, this year they have instead changed to “Screen Free Saturdays,” encouraging families to rest their eyes and minds from the screens of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones. 

Some call it unplugging. Some refer to it as digital detoxing. Whatever the name, it is a purposeful act of refraining from or limiting our exposure to digital technology for a specified time. Dr. Scott Becker is the director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center and specializes in researching the impact of digital technology on mental health. His research has found that the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships.

The overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, identity, intimacy and empathy.

Here are some practical ways to be intentional and mindful about your use of electronic devices this season:

  • Take some time to reflect on the ways you use technology in your daily life. What kinds of habits do you have now that you didn’t three months ago?
  • If you are on a screen often during your workday, follow the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. You could set a timer or there are apps like “Break Time” on Google Chrome that will pop up on your screen to remind you take a break. 
  • When you are indoors, mimic natural outdoor conditions by exposing yourself to bright light during the day, dim light in the evening and darkness at night. Our bodies are designed to respond to light in this way. Studies show you could improve your sleep by staying off electronic devices close to bedtime. And check out the settings on your phone or tablet to automatically adjust to a warmer color at night.
  • Increase productivity and focus by managing your phone use and email response. While at work, turn off email notifications and establish certain times to check and respond to email rather than immediately responding to that urgent ding. Designate times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects.
  • Set times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen.

Here’s wishing you Digital Wellness this coming week!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood https://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Stateside Podcast (2017). Just about everyone is addicted to screens. What can we do about it? https://www.michiganradio.org/post/just-about-everyone-addicted-screens-what-can-we-do-about-it

American Optometric Association (2016) Save your vision month: Counsel patients about digital eye strain in the workplace. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/save-your-vision-month-counsel-patients-about-digital-eye-strain-in-the-workplace-

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012). Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep. https://news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

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