How addictive is social media and what parents should know

Have you watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma?” Talk about scary. It has some high tech gurus talking about how they’ve created a monster called social media. Some of them find themselves addicted to their own creations. The number of children suffering from anxiety, depression and suicide attempts has skyrocketed since sites like Facebook and Instagram began. The first generation to be raised on social media, according to the movie, are 24 years and younger. That’s my daughter’s age.

It reminded me of a blog post I wrote two years ago in October about how the high tech geniuses in the Silicon Valley won’t allow their children to have any screen time at all. Zero. They obviously know something they aren’t telling the rest of us.

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Robert and Kat showing off their super powers.

Here’s the blog post from 2018:

Talk about hypocrites. I read the strangest story about parents who live in the Silicon Valley and refuse to let their kids see or touch iPhones or any screens of any nature. These are parents who work in the high tech world and themselves use the devices. While they are at work, they hire nannies to shield their kids from the heinous devices they work to create.

Then to even go further, they make nannies sign contracts that they will keep them away from screens. They also hire spies to snoop on their nannies at parks to make sure they don’t cheat and check their phones. When these parents get home, they are locked onto their phones. Maybe it’s because they understand how miserable the phones are making their lives, that they want to keep their kids’ lives free from tech.

Here are a few excerpts from the article I read in sfgate called Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for Kids:

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, said of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

The bright side is these parents do care about their kids. They want what is best for them. I wonder if they use their electronics while they are at home? Do they put away the iphones at dinner? Do the parents realize that their kids will model their behavior and learn most from what they do, not what they say?

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My cowboys using their imaginations.

What do you think is the scariest part of The Social Dilemma? 

How life changed with a fitbit

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The fitbit tracks my steps around the park.

I wanted a fitbit for Christmas mainly because I’m competitive and my husband started using one last year. We’d compare our steps during walks and his fitbit gave him way more steps than me carrying my iphone.

Now that I’ve used my fitbit for two weeks, what do I have to say about it?

I really like it. It’s helping stay on track. Every hour it gives me a little buzz to push me away from my computer and on my feet. I found that I am consistently getting more than 10,000 steps a day — not because I wasn’t before — but my phone wasn’t always with me to capture the steps.

The other thing I really like about it is that I can swim with it. It keeps track of my laps and minutes of my swim — except for kicking. For some reason — I guess because my arms aren’t moving — I don’t get the yards in for a kick set. Oh well. I know in my head I did the kicking. I did ask our coach yesterday, “Why kick, if the fitbit doesn’t record it?” His answer was, “Why wear it if it doesn’t record everything?” Well, it’s worth it for everything else.

The final thing that I’m liking about it is the sleep part. Every morning I wake up, let it sync to my phone and then I check how well I slept. It will give me the time I fell asleep and woke up. Also, how much light, deep, REM sleep I got and how much and often I woke up during the night. It’s really interesting stuff. One thing I’ve learned is that on a swim day, my REM and deep sleep is twice that of a day I didn’t swim.

What I think the fitbit does for me is encourages me to be consistent with my exercise and sleep. It makes these things easier, because after all there’s an App for that.

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The fitbit tracks my laps in the pool.

Have you tried a fitbit or an Apple watch? What do you like about them the most?

 

What happened when college students ditched their phones?

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Without my smart phone, I couldn’t take pictures like this without lugging my real camera.

In a course at Adelphi University called “Life Unplugged” students were challenged to check their addiction to smart phones by giving them up for one week. Adelphi is a private university located in Garden City, NY.

What an interesting challenge. I wonder, should I try this myself? My excuse is that I need to have my phone in case my kids call me. I’m still being “mom” even though they are grown and flown. But, seriously, what if they do need me? Would they think to call the land line? Probably. Yes. I haven’t found a good excuse yet to not try the experiment. Except, maybe I don’t want to!

At first, the kids reported that they felt shaky and went through withdrawal symptoms. Here’s an excerpt from reporting by a CBS2 in New York about the “Life Unplugged” challenge. To read the entire article or see the video click on the link here. I recommend watching it.

‘It’s Really Refreshing And Relaxing’: College Students Say Ditching Their Smartphones For A Week Changed Their Lives

ARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – They survived!

Nearly two dozen Adelphi University students made it a full week without their cell phones!

As CBS2 first told you last week, it was part of a college course intended to break the powerful addiction of smartphones.

CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff went back on Thursday as students were reunited with their beloved mobile devices.

It’s old school in Jacob Dannenberg’s dorm room – with an alarm clock to wake him.

Handwritten notes remind him an actual wristwatch to keep track of time.

No it wasn’t 1999, it was an Adelphi University course called “Life Unplugged.” where students did the unthinkable one week ago – handed over their smartphones.

“I’m freaking out, I could probably cry right now,” one student said.

It was a bold experiment to recognize today’s compulsive relationships with ever present devices.

Seven days later, “who’s excited they’re getting their phones back today?” Professor Donna Freitas asked.

Gone were the nerves and the shakes.

“Everything is perfect right now. I’m having a lot better relationships… it’s a stress free environment no pressure about social media,” Jacob Dannenberg said.

“I think it’s really refreshing and relaxing… I was able to fall asleep a lot easier,” student Adrianna Cigliano.

The results students experienced included better focus on homework, better sleep and living in the present. Although none of the kids is ditching their smart phones forever, they said they would cut down on screen time as a result of the class.

Below are pictures from our family cabin that has no running water, electricity or cell service! Maybe I should plan a stay there for a week!

What do you think about ditching smart phones? Will you give it a try?

Remember when we were “addicted to love” not screens?

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No screens during the beach days.

I wonder what’s going to happen to us as we become more and more addicted to screens? I read an article on The Next Web that discussed the increase in hours children spend looking at screens. Something new that has cropped up since my kids were babies is more children have tablets or smartphones. When my kids were little, they spent time with educational computer programs, but the smartphones and tablets didn’t exist. Along with the increased screen times for kids, there is an uptick in teens with depression, anxiety, and a decline in physical health.

In “Technology and parenting: addressing the friction: Walking the fine line between technology addiction and entertainment” by Anna Johansson, she cites several studies and breaks down the numbers. 

“Raising children has always been tough work. Whether in ancient Greece or modern America, there have always been distinct cultural challenges that come with parenting. Each generation of parents must deal with a new set of issues. It just so happens that one of today’s biggest issues is the ubiquitous and addictive nature of technology.”

How Much Screen Time is Too Much Screen Time?

It’s virtually impossible to be a productive or engaged member of society without some exposure to screens and digital media – even as a young child. But there’s clearly a point where too much technology becomes dangerous.

A research project in Canada has been following nearly 2,000 young people from infancy into their teenage years and the results are alarming. Children who spend the most time glued to screens from a young age face the highest risk of emotional, psychological, and physical health issues.

According to journalist Brett Arends, who combed through the study and wrote a piece for MarketWatch, “Those children were more likely to become depressed by age 12 or 13, to be the victims of bullying, to be aggressive, to have lower interpersonal skills, to have unhealthy diets, and to be overweight, the researchers found.”

One surprising thing I read in the article was that children from lower income homes (less than $50k annual household income) spend more hours looking at screens than those from higher income (above $75k). Another fact was that people who work in the tech industry are stricter about screen time for their children than people who don’t work in the industry.

We know our children look to us and model our behaviors. It’s on us to put the phones down. Engage with people face to face. Get out and walk, play in the park, or go for a hike with our kids. As a family I believe it’s a good idea to make an effort to have daily screen free time.

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What rules does your family have about spending time on computers, tablets and phones?

How does screen time change our kids’ brains?

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Outdoor time seems so much healthier for kids than screen time.

Does screen time affect our kids’ brains? According to an article by Lisa Lee for Bloomberg called “Screen Time Changes Structure of Kids’ Brains, ’60 Minutes’ Says,” there is a decade-long study underway to answer that question. There will be a major release of information from the study in early 2019. Until then, if I had young children, I’d use caution with too much screen time.

(Bloomberg) — Smartphones, tablets and video games are physically changing the brains of adolescents, early results from an ongoing $300 million study funded by the National Institute of Health have shown, according to a report by “60 Minutes.”

Scientists will follow more than 11,000 nine- to 10-year-olds for a decade to see how childhood experiences impact the brain and affect emotional development and mental health. The first bits of data suggest that the onslaught of tech screens has been transformative for young people — and maybe not for the better.

In brain scans of 4,500 children, daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world. Though the difference was significant from participants who spent less screen time, NIH study director Gaya Dowling cautioned against drawing a conclusion.

“We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. We don’t know if it’s a bad thing,” Dowling said, according to an advance transcript provided by CBS network. “It won’t be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot.”

Early results from the study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019.

My son used our desktop computer from about age two. At that time, around 1995, we didn’t have much of an internet. I bought educational disks that he’d pop into the computer and he learned by playing games. There was one disk by Fisher Price that taught him the names of all the planets and their moons. I was amazed at how much he was learning by using the early childhood disks that I didn’t see any downside to allowing him screen time.

Fast forward to 2018, and the way kids use screens has changed. They are using them as their major means of communications and instead of sitting at a desktop, kids have iPhones and iPads and take them everywhere they go. They are hardly ever free or away from their screens.

I’m curious to learn the results of this study. It’s pretty scary that the structure of the brain is changed by looking at screens. I wonder if it will change how parents view screen time and if it will affect their parenting? I also think I may put my phone down and not be reading it in bed! I read that parents who work in Silicon Valley for the tech companies don’t allow their own children to use screens, but prefer they play in the park or with board games instead. Do they know something we don’t know?

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About the age my son started on the computer.

How do you set boundaries on how much time your kids spend on their electronics? Do you make them go outside to play?

Should Your Kids Be Selfie Stars?

Last year, I spent this week with my daughter in Salt Lake City. What a wonderful time we had together shopping, hiking, and visiting Park City and Deer Valley–and just hanging out together. This is one of the stories I wrote while staying with her.

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Experiencing the beach.

My daughter and I walked into an elevator yesterday at Nordstrom’s with a mom pushing a Thule baby stroller, snapping pics of her infant and tapping away on her phone to post the pics. My daughter whispered to me, “Thank God they didn’t have iPhones when I was a kid!”

I told her I was thankful that their early childhood was before the era of smartphones, too.

Later, I asked her why she was glad we didn’t have iPhones. Her answer surprised me. “Because you would have been taking photos constantly and posting every moment of my life on FaceBook,” she said.

Psychologists warn about kids spending too much time in front of screens and not enough of their time outdoors in an article in the DailyMail.com called “Why children should not be selfie stars:”

In advice to parents, Dr. Godsi said: ‘Leave technology at home. When you go out as a family leave mobile devices switched off and have a rule that says no mobile phones during family meal times.’

The author added: ‘In my opinion selfies should not be encouraged.

‘I think there is a place for taking a few photos, as a way to help families remember or look back and to share memories but the constant pressure to post on social media means there’s a risk that they (children) don’t experience anything except through a lens.’

My daughter said that once I got my first iPhone and was learning how to use it, “You relentlessly posted ugly, fat pictures of me on FaceBook.”

I view those photos not as ugly, but on a scale of cute to adorable to gorgeous.

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Learning about the ocean in Junior Lifeguards.

I explained that I was so glad she and her brother weren’t posing for pictures constantly, weren’t worried about what other kids were doing at the moment, but went outside to play. That’s why I’m glad the iPhone wasn’t a thing in their early years.

When we had kids over, they weren’t sitting side by side texting each other. No, they were running around the backyard and house playing a reverse hide-and-seek game called sardines—for hours on end.

When we were at the beach, they were jumping in the waves, body surfing, building drip castles, digging holes and yes—occasionally fighting and throwing sand. As annoying and painful as throwing sand was–especially dealing with sand in the eyes–it sure beats constantly posing for pictures.

My daughter says there is room for both. When she goes to the beach with friends, they now get a few pics, then toss the phones in a beach bag and dive under the waves.

Here are a few frightening stats from the article in the UK Mail:

Dr. Godsi spoke out after a survey of 2,000 parents by outdoor education provider, Kingswood, found that the biggest source of quality time among families is spent watching TV together. Sixty-eight percent cited this as their main activity shared with children, followed by going to the cinema (35 per cent) and playing computer games (24 per cent).

The average age of the parents’ children was ten, while 445 were seven.

Asked to look back to when all their youngsters were seven, 85 percent of families said their sons or daughters had never gone camping.

Sixty-five percent said they had never played pooh sticks or climbed a tree (51 percent).

Forty-one per cent admitted their children had never been on a bike ride, paddled in the sea (43 percent) or played in a park (31 percent).

It’s very easy to get sedentary. It’s also easy not to talk to each other when we’re buried and focused on our screens. I’m lucky to spend this week with my daughter just hanging out and being with each other.

What are your thoughts about selfies, kids and family time? Do your kids spend enough time without their phones experiencing outdoors?

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On the lookout for dolphins and whales.

 

About Those New Year’s Resolutions…

 

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How can I be a better parent to these two this year?

January is a great time to think about how we can be better—whether it’s nutrition, working out, cleaning closets, quitting bad habits, or getting more work done. It’s also an ideal time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. I try to set realistic goals for the New Year and not something too huge or unrealistic. It amazes me how the time flies by and stuff I was sure to get done by summer managed to get by me—again!

I ran into a slew of parenting tips to start the New Year. If you browse through daily newspapers and blogs, all sorts of parents will tell you how to be a better parent in 2018. In The Herald-Tribune from Florida, two moms with nine kids between them, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, wrote “PARENTING: The goal of the elementary years is independence.” Although their article focuses on the elementary years, it’s something I can still work on with my kids. They are in transition points in their life, becoming adults. Independence is something they crave, yet they still want to be pampered and taken care of by mom and dad. Here’s some of the advice from Jenni and Jody:

 

“Most people embrace the idea of goal setting just before the new year, especially when it comes to personal, professional and financial growth. But how about setting goals for our children’s growth?

If you have an elementary aged child, this is the perfect time to set some goals for your child’s independence.

For starters, the elementary years are the training ground for learning to take care of themselves and their things. It’s the season when they develop habits of brushing their teeth, washing their hands, making their beds and keeping their space clean and organized.

Life is busy and often it’s easier to pick up the toys or do the dishes ourselves. But if we start the new year with the goal of helping our kids become independent, it can prevent us from doing things for our children that they should be learning to do for themselves.

This means taking the time to carefully teach them these skills and then coach them along as they become more and more proficient. In the end, it will save time as we nurture and cultivate independent kids who can take care of themselves and contribute to the household.

The elementary years are also the time to begin teaching our kids to become academically independent, to take responsibility for their education. It starts by giving them systems and tools that will help them become more mature students.

For example, we can create a checklist for our kids and then help them end each day by cleaning out their backpacks, making sure they have everything they need for the next day and writing down questions to ask their teachers about things they didn’t understand in their homework.

We can also set goals during the elementary years to help our kids learn to advocate for themselves. Of course we always want our children to know they are supported and that, in their homes, they are part of a family (a community) that operates as a team, where everyone is loyal to one another and committed to each other’s success. But that doesn’t mean that we fight our kids’ battles for them. No, our job is to help our kids become independent and learn to effectively stand up for themselves.”

I read “8 resolutions for better parenting in the New Year” By David G. Allan on CNN’s website. He had some good practical advice that starts with being in the moment. I get admonished by my daughter for not paying attention. It’s usually because of my iPhone. I confess that I get busy looking at texts or emails. My son will text me while I’m with my daughter, and she’ll say “I’m here with you now!” A good goal for me in 2018 is to put my phone down! It reminds me of a video by “Smog and Fog” called “Put Your Phone Down.” 

Here are the first three tips out of eight from Allan:

“If you’re looking to improve your parenting, you’re not alone. In my opinion, it’s an essential area of course correction, up there with weight loss, better eating and better spending, arguably more essential.

What’s beautiful about parenting resolutions is that your kids benefit too, and likely your spouse and any potential future grandkids. You get a lot of bang for your resolution buck.
As with any resolution, honestly examine areas where you feel you could be doing better or want to improve. Below are eight parenting resolution thought-starters in categories we all probably need to give more attention in the coming year.

Being there
There’s a lot of talk, many articles and a long shelf of books on mindful parenting. But it all boils down to this: When you’re with your kids, give them full, curious and happy attention.

Be more laissez-faire about some things
You may be burdening yourself with milestones and cultural expectations that really don’t matter if you pause to think about them. Here are some developmental achievements you don’t really need to waste time, energy and anxiety pushing. Rest assured these will almost always work themselves out in due time.

Don’t drive under the influence of your phone
Here comes your PSA: More than 40,000 people died on US roads in 2016, according to National Safety Council estimates. Many roadway fatalities involve drunken driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts (so don’t do any of those things, clearly), but increasingly, accidents are being caused by people texting or talking while driving.

DWD: Driving While Distracted
Fifty-one percent of teens reported seeing their parents checking and/or using their mobile devices while driving, according to a Common Sense Media poll last year. And when you repeatedly model a behavior in front of your kids, that’s called teaching.”

 

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Me and my son in San Francisco.

What are your goals for the New Year? Did you make a list of New Year’s Resolutions?