Posts

Think back to summers when you were a kid. You might recall getting up, doing a few chores and then heading outside to play, only taking a break for lunch. Your mom or dad’s call for dinner was probably met with complaints about coming inside.

In an informal survey of adults about their childhood summer memories, people recalled catching fireflies, climbing trees, fishing and playing outside with friends. They also mentioned riding bikes, running through the sprinkler and lots of other activities. As they thought about their response, they usually smiled and laughed as the memories replayed in their mind.

Times have changed.

Instead of spending time playing outside, various studies indicate many children will get up and Schead straight to some type of screen. In fact, 8 to 10-year-olds spend on average between five and seven hours playing games, watching movies or television. For teens, this number increases. This is a stark contrast to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that children 10 and older spend no more than two hours a day watching a screen.

Too much screen time can increase a child’s risk of having trouble sleeping at night, experiencing attention issues and developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that children eat more unhealthy food while watching screens, which can lead to weight gain.

While many parents grow weary, the battle between choosing screen time or memories is definitely one worth fighting.

When children move away from screens and interact with others, it helps them develop communication skills. They also learn how to get along with others and problem-solve when there is disagreement over a kickball game score. Play helps build a child’s imagination and enhances their ability to entertain themselves.

So, here’s a challenge: Unplug from the screens and encourage your kids to spend their time in other ways.

Initially, you will undoubtedly get the usual push-back, but stand your ground. Know that you are setting the stage for your children to create some great memories. If they say they are bored, offer them some ways to work around the house. They’ll probably find something to do in order to avoid chores – and it teaches your child to entertain themselves.

The AAP actually says that doing nothing at all is better than staring at a screen.

For example, car rides without DVDs allow a child to look at their surroundings and let their imagination run wild.

While unplugging might not be the most convenient thing to do, see it as intentional preparation for launching your child. Moving away from screens gives them the chance to learn the necessary skills to help them navigate through life. Who’s up for the challenge?

Other blogs:

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Why You Need Screen Time Limits, Too (Not Just Your Kids!)

3 Reasons to Let Your Child Have More Screen Time

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!

How Technology Affects Families

Connecting with each other doesn't require a device.

Do you remember when the only TV at home was in the family room? Or when your family looked for license plates from all 50 states when you were traveling? Now, just about everybody has their own personal device. Each person listens to different music in the car. Homes have several screens and family members rarely watch the same shows together. Technology is everywhere. Technology affects families, without a doubt.

In the last 50 years, technology has exploded. It’s no longer in one place with limits and parental supervision. It’s portable and unlimited. And it’s very hard to control.

So, we’ve got a lot to think about when it comes to how technology affects families. Consider these two questions from author and clinical counselor, John Van Epp:

  • To what extent will families allow technology to be fused with their relationships?
  • Are families unplugging devices to really plug into each other?

Studies suggest that families aren’t doing a great job of connecting.

Consider these examples of technology’s impact on families.

One group from Boston Medical Center watched family interactions in fast-food restaurants. Out of 55 families, 40 parents were doing something with their phones while they were with their children. The researchers call this “absorption with the mobile device.” When a child tried to get a parent’s attention, they got in trouble for interrupting the parent.

UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs also conducted an intensive in-home study on this issue. Ochs found a primary theme in these homes: multi-tasking among family members. She cites a common conversation between parent and child: “My parents always tell me that I can’t do homework while listening to music. But they don’t understand that it helps me to concentrate.”

According to David Myers, the director of the University of Michigan’s Brain Cognition Lab, the brain DOES NOT multi-task and students are NOT great multi-taskers. “The bottom line is you CANNOT simultaneously be thinking about your tax return and reading an essay,” he says. The brain may act in parallel functions (touch, sound, vision). But when engaging in different tasks, the brain operates like a toggle switch—jumping from one thing to another.

“This constant multi-tasking that people are doing results in dopamine ‘squirts.’ These lead to an addiction to constant techno-activity,” Van Epp says. “Yet, studies show that downtime for the brain is essential to the development of identity, morals, empathy and creativity.”

Here’s a challenge from Van Epp: Lay your smartphone down. See if you can go for an hour without picking it up.

“Research shows that technology is actually producing higher rates of anxiety among children and adults,” Van Epp says. “Apps are influencing child development and short-circuiting identity formation. They’re also discouraging face-to-face interactions and creating superficial intimacy.”

If you still aren’t convinced this is an issue, check out Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain. Then watch Gary Turk’s Look Up video on YouTube. 

“We must begin balancing technology and real time with loved ones,” Van Epp says. “We can’t let technology define us. Advances in technology can never replace gains in family interactions.”

So, what about you? Will your family unplug devices so you can really connect with each other?

For more resources, see our Parenting and Families page here.

Image from Unsplash.com

Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Teen Dating Abuse

Knowing what to look for can help keep your young adult safe.

The former pro athlete sat in the therapist’s office, sobbing. He and his wife had taken away their daughter’s cellphone the day before. While watching television that night, a picture of the boy their daughter was “talking” to popped up. It wasn’t just any picture. It was a sexual pose with private parts exposed.

Shocked at what they saw, they had their daughter open up her phone. They were stunned to see many compromising pictures, not only of the boy, but of their daughter as well.

Devastated, the father asked the therapist, “How could this be? I will never be able to erase these images from my brain. What do we do now?”

Dr. Jill Murray, psychologist and author of But He Never Hit Me and Destructive Relationships, shared her experience working at a domestic violence shelter. She found that every woman she interviewed there began their abusive relationships when they were 13 or 14 years old, going from abuser to abuser.

While many parents might automatically suspect physical abuse, some don’t consider the possibility of teen dating abuse with incredibly controlling behavior using cellphones.

Consider this:

  • 54 percent of teens say they communicate hourly with the person they are dating via cellphone between midnight and 5 a.m.
  • 38 percent of teens receive texts 30 to 50 times an hour by their boy/girlfriend inquiring about what they are doing.
  • 78 percent of parents are unaware their teen feels afraid in their dating relationship.
  • 87 percent of parents are unaware their teen has been asked to have sex via their cellphone.
  • 82 percent of parents are unaware of cellphone use through the night.

Current statistics indicate that:

  • 1 in 5 young women will be a victim of sexual assault in college.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 guys will be in a physically violent relationship.
  • The vast majority (85 percent) of teen violence is not physical at all. Rather, it is emotional and verbal abuse.
  • 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner.
  • Gender is not a qualifier.

Teen Dating Abuse: “This is a huge epidemic,” asserts Murray.

“The reason I use the word ‘epidemic’ is because if we had a disease in this country that affected 85 percent of teens we would consider it an epidemic. This is a huge problem that we can’t overlook.

“When I speak to teens I tell them, ‘If you are ever in a relationship where you feel frightened, scared to tell the truth, scared of making them angry, scared not to keep your cellphone on all night, or you spend a lot of time crying about your relationship, you are in an abusive relationship,’” Murray says.

“It is important to remember that teens have limited life experience and perspective. Their perspective is shaped by music, video games and the Kardashians. When we tell them it is not normal to be afraid or to not answer your cell at all hours of the day and night, they are shocked.”

A typical 14-year-old has no idea that a relationship is abusive when one person makes the rules, constantly changes the rules but doesn’t follow them and causes the other person in the relationship to be afraid of breaking the rules. Murray believes adults everywhere have a responsibility to educate young people about what healthy relationships look like and how to protect themselves from abusive ones.

“Education is the key,” Murray says. “In addition to teaching teens, parents need to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships.”

Your Teen Might Be in an Abusive Relationship IF:

  • He/she becomes physically agitated, nervous or unreasonably upset about giving up their cellphone at night.
  • He/she is always tired and seems like they don’t rest because of nighttime texting.
  • The person he/she is dating seems to try and isolate them from friends, family and their typical activities.
  • They cry frequently, seem nervous and have trouble making decisions.
  • They are constantly “reporting in” to their boy/girlfriend.

What Can You Do?

“I tell teens, love is a behavior,” Murray says. “Teens are feeling, feeling, feeling to the 10th power. Everything is big and dramatic. You can tell yourself that your feelings are anything. Then you get them to just look at behavior. Things like: He cheats on you. Is that loving behavior? She lies to you. Is that loving behavior? You’re losing sleep. Is that loving behavior?

“It gives them the opportunity to open up boxes in their head. It’s a new way of looking at their relationship that focuses on behavior. This is really important. This is the only way we can talk with them. Essentially, we are backing them into a corner where their only out is logic. Then, I tell them there are three things you have control over: your thoughts, your actions and your reactions. And hoping things will be different is not a strategy.”

Although most parents probably don’t think this could happen to their child, ignorance can be very dangerous. Despite the tension it may cause, conversations on this topic are critical. Make sure they understand what healthy and unhealthy behavior looks like in a relationship, because teen dating abuse has the potential to impact them long into adulthood.