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Groundbreaking Study Examines Effects of Screen Time on Kids

Children ages 9 and 10 who spent at least seven hours on screens per day had thinning of the part of the brain that controls sensory processing, and those who had more than two hours of daily screen time had lower language and thinking test scores, according to an ongoing study from the National Institutes of Health. The study will follow over 11,000 children for 10 years to see how prolonged screen time affects the brain.

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Halloween Safety

From www.healthfinder.gov

There’s no trick to staying safe on Halloween, safety experts say.

Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers. It’s best if children wear light-colored costumes and face paint or make-up instead of potentially vision-obstructing masks, according to SafeKids Worldwide.

Costumes should be the proper size to prevent trips and falls. Children should carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers. Don’t let children use electronic devices while walking and teach them to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.

Instruct children to cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. They need to look left, right and then left again when crossing and keep looking as they cross. They should walk, not run, across the street.

Children should walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, they should walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. They should follow a direct route with the fewest street crossings.

Teach youngsters to watch for cars that are turning or backing up, and to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

Children younger than 12 should have adult supervision while trick or treating. Those old enough to be out without adult supervision should stay in familiar areas that are well-lit and travel in groups, SafeKids said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Halloween safety.

Limiting Screen Time for Kids

Are you worried your kids are spending too much time in front of a screen?  Find out how much screen time is too much and discover easy ways to limit your kids’ time in front of a screen.

Homework Hygiene

Great tips to improve homework practices from Screenagers:

Homework Hygiene is all about helping kids develop effective practices around homework such as writing to-do lists, developing the habit of prioritizing the list and checking things off.

It is a top priority to engage our kids in conversations in which they become aware of the challenges they face in having good homework habits.

Screenagers 3-part conversation tactic for helping kids gain insight and ideas for optimal homework hygiene:

    1. Empathize – Start by saying you have empathy for all kids about homework—you understand that after a full school day how difficult it is to do repetitive or hard work. Validate that having to do homework can feel tortuous at times, and now with distractions at our fingertips, there is a new, unprecedented level of challenge.
    2. Get curious – Have one good conversation about homework that is calm and curious, not personal and judgemental.
    3. Explore effective strategies – After the non-personal conversations, get your kid to talk about their current homework strategies and habits. Ask questions like, “Do you start by writing a list of what needs to get done?” Now is a good time to throw out ideas.

Examples of good Homework Hygiene:

  1. Do homework after physical activity because the body is physiologically primed to learn more efficiently in this state.
  2. Start with the task that they least want to do and set the alarm for 10 minutes. That helps get over the hurdle of doing it. Then, after the 10 minutes, coming back to it will be much easier.
  3. Have a rule that all tech is off by a certain time so homework cannot be done late at night.
  4. Put phones out of sight and decide when it is reasonable for a tech or phone break. My 10th grader takes a short phone break about every 30 minutes.
  5. Put in place other breaks, not just checking phone, such as playing with a pet, or doing part of a crossword puzzle with them.
  6. Get a system that monitors what the student does on the computer, i.e. how often they check other sites. If they know this is on the computer, it can help keep them stay on task until they get a break. Check out our website for computer monitoring systems. Another way to do this is to tell your child that the two of you will check their browsing history from time to time. It is vital to be upfront about this because kids can easily erase their history.

Phones vs. Respect for Elders

From Common Sense Media

How many of us have witnessed a teacher, coach, or grandparent try to make conversation with kids who can’t unglue their eyes from a screen? Of course it’s only polite to put down your phone when anyone is talking to you, but it can be especially embarrassing for parents who were raised to defer to the older generation.

What to do: Make your expectations very clear. Talk to your kids about how important it is to use good manners when you’re on your phone. Explain that it can be very difficult to put down your phone when you’re in the middle of a game or chat, but you believe it’s important to pay special respect to people like grandparents and elders. And of course, respect breeds respect, so put your phone down when your kid talks to you (unless it’s about how much redstone they need to build a castle in Minecraft, in which case it’s totally OK to ignore them!).

Devices vs. Empathy

From Common Sense Media

The mere presence of a phone on the table between two people having a discussion has been shown to decrease feelings of empathy. Whether this is because the phone owner is distracted by the possibility of an incoming message or the promise of something more interesting on the device is unclear. But it makes sense that if someone isn’t giving you their full attention, they’re less likely to understand or empathize with you, and ultimately that can affect the quality of the relationship.

What to do: Prioritize face-to-face conversation over devices by putting phones and tablets out of site during meals. Recognize your thought pattern during conversations, and if you find yourself wondering about a missed call or guessing how many people liked your most recent Instagram post, refocus your concentration on your friend, spouse, or kid. And acknowledge how difficult digital distraction can be to manage yourself so that your kids understand that you think it’s an important challenge to wrestle with.

 

Child With a Short Attention Span? Blame Your Digital Device.

Adapted from Reuters

Parents who turn to smartphones and tablets to break up the tedium of caring for an infant around the clock may be teaching their babies to have a short attention span, a small study suggests.

That’s because when parents stop focusing on playtime with their baby to concentrate on other things like tiny screens, their infants may mimic this behavior by also focusing on toys and other objects for shorter periods of time.

In other words, babies learn to focus better when their parents aren’t distracted, said lead study author Chen Yu, a brain science researcher at Indiana University at Bloomington.

How your phone might give your kid a short attention span | Reuters

“If parents join a child’s attention on a toy object, children are more likely to show longer attention on the target object compared with cases that parents don’t show any attention or interest,” Yu said by email.

This works best when parents follow their baby’s lead, Yu added.

“If parents try to lead by getting the child’s attention on the object of the parent’s interest, this effort may not be successful,” Yu said. “But if parents just follow the child’s attention/interest it is easier to be in joint attention with their child.”

Click here to continue reading about how your smartphone and tablet usage may affect your child’s attention span.

Eager to learn more about digital citizenship?  Check out Common Sense Media.

Celebrate Screen Free Week

screen free weekDuring Screen Free Week, May 2-8, children, families, and communities around the world will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen. Unplug from digital entertainment and spend your free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends.
*except for work and school assignments

Visit Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood for more information

Featured Resources

Changing children’s screen habits can be a challenge for both kids and parents. That’s why we created “7 Parent-Tested Tips to Unplug and Play,” strategies for getting young kids to spend less time with screens from real parents who have done it and noticed a world of difference.
Want the children in your life to spend more time playing and less time with screens? CCFC’s great new handout is for you. Clear, concise, and evidence-based, our Healthy Kids in a Digital World brochure is packed with tips, facts, and screen-free activities—and it’s free!

Is Your Child Using These Apps?

In our post, Five Potentially Dangerous Apps for Kids, we listed apps you may want to consider monitoring if your child is using them on their mobile device.  With the help of the National PTA, we’re expanding the list:

snapchat

 

Snapchat—You’ve probably heard of this one. It’s a video messaging app where users can take photos and record videos to a targeted list of contacts. Accompanied with a set of fun filtered frames and tools to draw and add emojis, users have a ton of fun ways to interact. Once you hit send, the message will self-destruct. (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

 

Voxer

Voxer—This is a walkie talkie like messaging app that uses a voice messaging and “push-to-talk” system to communicate. By default, Voxer enables the “Share Location” and disables the “Privacy Mode.” That means, anyone communicating with your child can track their location. It’s important to check and enable privacy and location settings so you do not reveal any personal information. (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

 

tinder

Tinder—If you’re a single parent or talk to your single friends, this is a popular dating app that connects matched users based off mutual interests and location. However, teens are actively on it. The app uses your information from Facebook including date of birth to verify your age. Users aged between 13 and 17 can see only other Tinder users within the same age group. Users over 18 can see only other users who are also over 18.  (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

 

For the majority of the apps listed above the user has to be 13 years or older to sign up—teens under 18 are to “agree” with their parent or guardian before they sign-up.

7 Questions to Ask Before Giving Your Child Their First Phone

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7 Questions to Ask Before Giving Your Child Their First Phone

  1. Does your child show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house? Do they show up when they say they will?
  2. Does your child tend to lose things, such as backpacks or homework folders?
  3. Does your child need to be able to contact you at any time for safety reasons?
  4. Would having easy access to friends benefit your child for social reasons?
  5. Do you think your child will use cell phones responsibly—for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
  6. Can your child adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  7. Will your child use text, photo and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?

For additional resources, check out Smart Talk