5 Tips for Parents to Reign In Smartphone Use

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Life before smartphones.

With all the evidence that more and more kids are suffering from anxiety and depression and with suicide rates skyrocketing, there is research that says smartphones may be making these trends worse. In a Time article by Markam Heid, “We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones” he shares these horrifying figures:

“Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leapt by 60%, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 survey of 17,000 kids found that about 13% of them had a major depressive episode, compared to 8% of the kids surveyed in 2010. Suicide deaths among people age 10 to 19 have also risen sharply, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young women are suffering most; a CDC report released earlier this year showed suicide among teen girls has reached 40-year highs. All this followed a period during the late-1990s and early 2000s when rates of adolescent depression and suicide mostly held steady or declined.”

In another article, “Is Your Kid Hooked on Smartphones? 5 Tips for Parents” Heid gives some great advice for parents who are concerned with their kids’ smartphone use. Here’s the abbreviated version. You can read his article in its entirety here.

ONE
Keep devices out of kids’ bedrooms. There is already strong data linking bedroom screen time with a variety of risks—particularly sleep loss, says David Hill, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communication and Media.

TWO
Set up online firewalls and data cutoffs.
Most devices and Internet providers offer parenting tools that restrict access to illicit content and curb data use, and there are apps that do so as well.

THREE
Create a device contract. “This is something you create with your child that details rules around their device use,” says Yalda Uhls, an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA and author of Media Moms and Digital Dads. These rules could include no smartphones at the dinner table, or no more than an hour of social media use after school.

FOUR
Model healthy device behaviors. Just as kids struggle to stay off their phones, so do parents. “We’re all, even adults, drawn to devices,” says UPenn’s Jensen. And if you’re a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different, she says.

FIVE
Consider old-school flip phones for your kids, or a smartphone without a data plan (and therefore no Internet access). This may seem like overkill for some parents—especially those of older teens. But unconnected phones still allow teens to call or text with parents and friends, says Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen.

I think the best thing to do is put down firm guidelines and don’t give in. I was strict with my kids about when they got their first cell phones and I bought them at Target as pay-as you-go phones. It wasn’t until my son’s high school graduation that he got an iPhone. My daughter got one a little sooner because they were much more common, but not until age 16.

Today, I’m the one addicted to my phone. I’m always reading stories, looking at Twitter, checking out FB, etc. My daughter gets so mad at me when we’re together and asks me to put the phone down. “I”m here with you now!” she’ll remind me. I worry a lot about the kids who are in the iGen with peer pressure following them wherever they are. Getting the smartphones and computers out of their bedrooms at night is a smart idea. Making a weekend or week to unplug as a family is a plan, too. It’s such a different world, isn’t it, from when we grew up?

What rules do you have for your kid’s smartphone use?

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Me not on my iPhone–being in the moment with my daughter.

 

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Why are kids taking longer to grow up?

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Senior prom–the kids got together in person.

Several articles published today are referencing a study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. She studied millions of kids to come up with the fact that millennials are taking longer to grow up than in previous generations. Twenge doesn’t make a judgment on whether that’s good or bad, she just states it as a fact.

In a talk I attended a few years ago for my daughter’s college, in one of the sessions led by an Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Psychologist Kari Ellingson said the same thing. She said when we were young, kids matured into adults at age 19, 20 and 21. Today, those numbers are delayed to 26, 27 and 28.

In an article from the New York Times, called “The curse of the helicopter parent” Twenge and her study are cited:

New York – Parents may still marvel at how fast their children grow up, but a new study finds that US teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.

In some ways, the trend appears positive: high school children today are less likely to be drinking or having sex compared with their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.

But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive – traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.

So is that slower development “good” or “bad”? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers say.

The findings, published online in the journal Child Development this week, are based on surveys done between 1976 and 2016.

Together, they involved more than 8 million US children in the 13-19 age group.

Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try “adult” activities – including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).

By the 2010s, only 55% of high school seniors had ever worked for pay – versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s to the 1990s.

Similarly, only 63% had ever been on a date. That compared with 81% to 87% of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.

In the San Diego Tribune, contact reporter Bradley J. Fikes wrote: “Teens are growing up more slowly — and they seem OK with it.”

Mid- to -late teens are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, namely working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol, according to four decades of surveys reviewed for the study, led by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

Today’s 18-year-olds exhibit similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year-olds in the late 1970s, Twenge said. Moreover, they’re mostly doing this voluntarily — parents aren’t imposing this delayed independence.

The spread of smartphones, which allow teens to socialize from the safety of their homes, is part of the explanation, said Twenge. The author of “Generation Me,” she has released a new book on the generation born after 1995 called “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

When I look back on my teenage years compared to my kids, we had a whole lot more freedom. We were out all the time and our parents didn’t seem to care where we were. In fact, my parents were enjoying weekends on our boat or at the cabin and would leave my brother and me alone when we were teens. The same was true for a lot of my friends’ parents, as well. They didn’t keep track of us on a minute by minute basis. They also didn’t track us on “find my iPhone.” There weren’t any cell phones to call home and they just said to be home by a certain time.

I wonder how much influence our technology has today over our kids not growing up so fast? They aren’t getting together with friends to interact in person. They can do that from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Plus, they have all the entertainment they can consume, right on their iPhones. We helicopter parents keep a close eye on our kids and we know where they are at all times. By contrast, our parents told us to get outside and not come back until dinner. Between us and iPhones, our kids aren’t getting real-world experiences.

Everyone I knew growing up had some sort of part-time job in high school–even if it was working for their family’s business. I worked in my dad’s dental office and my brother bagged groceries at the local Safeway. Today, I know of very few kids with part-time jobs. My own son worked several jobs, but he was one of the few. He was an assistant lifeguard, then a coach for our team. He tutored in math and was paid to maintain a website. Very few of my kids’ friends had jobs after school. Teens today must not need to earn money because we are providing for all their needs and wants.

On the bright side, it’s good our kids aren’t running around at night unsupervised, drinking and having sex as teens. Also, they actually like hanging out with their parents!

What are your thoughts about why kids are not growing up as fast as we did?

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Hanging out together this summer.

Here’s a recent story I wrote that included psychologist Jean M. Twenge.

Do you know what apps are on your teen’s phone?

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You can’t use social media underwater–yet.

Most parents want to know what our kids are doing on social media. We’ve been aware of the dangers out there—from sexual predators to cyberbullying. Our kids who spend too much time on their phones are more prone to anxiety and depression. Suicide has doubled for girls from 2007 to 2015 reaching a 40-year high, according to new analysis from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

A decade ago our kids were on MySpace. Then they moved to Facebook. They’re on Instagram and Snapchat now, but are we? The problem I see with social media is that as soon as we figure out how to use a platform, our kids have jumped onto a new one.

In the article called “Got teens? Four popular apps you need to know about” by Amy Morganroth, she details four apps I’ve never heard of. Have you?

“If you’ve got tweens or teens who are on phones or iPads or similar devices, you need to stay vigilant about the latest “hot” apps.

“Many are targeted at kids under the age of 18 and are wildly popular because they are free and easy to use.

“But most also have pretty frightening features that could put your kids at risk if they connect with the wrong person.

“On the flip side, we also highlight one app that’s designed to help parents make sure their child responds to their text messages.”

The apps she mentions are Yellow, musical.ly and Sarahah that can be platforms for cyberbullying or meeting up with strangers. Yellow is called “Tinder” for kids. It’s a meet-up app and there are no controls on it. The app musical.ly allows users to create music videos with their friends. That may sound harmless but one dad reported that his seven-year-old daughter was asked to post topless photos of herself. Sahara is a messaging app and the problem is it’s all anonymous, hence the cyberbullying. The app ‘Reply ASAP’ allows parents to remotely lock their kids’ phones if they don’t respond to their text within three minutes. I’d like that one. I hate it when my kids don’t respond to my texts.

I haven’t found the answer to the dangers of social media for our kids mental and physical health. My only suggestion is to get your kids into an environment where they have to put their phones down. Like in the swimming pool, a hike in the mountains–or a day at the beach.

Are you fluent in knowing what apps are on your kid’s phones? How do you monitor their social media?

 

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Another place there’s no social media because our cell phones have zero bars.

 

How many parents know about “roasting” a cyberbullying trend?

 

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The pool is a good place to get away from cellphones.

 

My daughter told me they had a meeting at her college about their social media use. I’m thrilled to hear that they are on top of it and take it seriously. The students were told that someone is monitoring their social media accounts. The student-athletes were given specific examples of what had been seen and what the consequences were including loss of scholarships or being kicked off the team. Every day I hear about new problems with social media like depression and anxiety as a result of too much screen time–and today I heard about “roasting” a trend in cyberbullying.

On ABC’s Good Morning America, there was a feature called “What parents should know about roasting, a new cyberbullying trend”

Experts are warning parents to be aware of a recent rise in the social media trend of “roasting,” which many critics consider a harmful form of cyberbullying.

The trend involves people asking to be insulted by posting photos or videos of themselves on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, usually with the hashtag #roastme. Then friends or strangers online will take turns insulting the person who posted the original video or photo. Sometimes the insults are lighthearted or humorous, but the comments can also very quickly turn alarmingly mean.

ABC News’ T.J. Holmes sat down with middle school students — who asked not to be identified by their full names — to understand more about the online trend that has left some parents baffled.

“Adults don’t really say it … it’s like a kid thing,” one teenager told ABC News of “roasting.”

Another teen explained to Holmes that roasting is about a “50-50” split of good-natured fun and being mean to another person.

The middle schoolers told Holmes that while they do not participate in the trend themselves, they have seen it affect the lives of those around them, saying that some other children from their school were compared to animals online when they were roasted.

“Some people took it as a joke, and then others were actually crying about it,” one student told Holmes.

Cyberbullying is something parents of tweens and teens need to be aware of. On the ABC report, an expert said parents need to have their children’s passwords and see what is going on. We need to know if our kids are being bullied–and also if they are the bully. In another article, it says that half of teens and young adults between 12 and 20 years old have been bullied. That means one out of every two kids experiences bullying. We need to let them know that it’s not acceptable and this is a place where I believe a parent needs to get involved and interfere.

CYBERBULLYING HAPPENS MORE OFTEN ON INSTAGRAM, A NEW SURVEY SUGGESTS
By Hillary Grigonis — Updated July 22, 2017

A new study suggests that half of teens and young adults between ages 12 and 20 have been bullied and 17 percent experience bullying online. The cyberbullying statistics come from Ditch the Label, one of the largest anti-bullying organizations in the world, and a study of more than 10,000 youths in the U.K.

According to the survey, more youths experienced cyberbullying on Instagram than any other platform at 42 percent, with Facebook following close behind at 37 percent. Snapchat ranked third at 31 percent. While the survey participants use YouTube more than any other platform, the video-focused social media was only responsible for 10 percent of the reported cyber bullying.

Seventy-one percent of the survey participants said that social media platforms do not do enough to prevent cyberbullying.

The survey also considered the other side of the story, asking the same age group how often they were the bullies, instead of being on the receiving end. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they were abusive online toward another user, compared to just 12 percent that admitted to bullying in general. Despite the prevalence of youth initiating the bullying, more than 60 percent disagreed with the idea that “saying something nasty” is less hurtful online than in person.

“Cyberbullying continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing young people online,” Ditch the Label CEO Liam Hackett wrote about the cyberbullying statistics. “This research uncovers the true extent and impact of online abuse, finding that the majority of young people have at some point done something that could be considered as abusive online behavior.”

Has your child been the victim of cyberbullying? How did you handle it?

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Would you sign the no-cellphone pledge? Are smartphones ruining a generation?

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Before cell phones were so prevalent, friends got together to hang out.

Today I found several sources talking about a pledge that thousands of parents are signing–the “Wait Until 8th” pledge to hold off giving kids cellphones until they are 13 or 14. Apparently, it’s hard for parents to say no to their kids and they don’t want to be the only family in the neighborhood to ban smartphones. By banding together and signing a pledge, they aren’t alone and they are getting more parents to support this idea.

I heard about the pledge here at a CBS station online:

SUMMIT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Making your child wait to get a smartphone could feel impossible, but it might be a huge relief, and many parents are doing it.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, thousands have signed the ‘wait until 8th pledge’ — agreeing not to give their child a smartphone until 8th grade.

The Chicago Tribune covered it as well in “What age is too young for a smartphone? ‘Wait Until 8th’ pledge asks parents to delay tech for kids” by Kate Thayer:

Oak Park mom Keri Lucas doesn’t like how her smartphone seems to take hold of her young daughter’s mind when she lets her browse through digital snapshots.

“I do notice it impacts her behavior in a negative way,” said Lucas, describing how it’s hard to pull her 7-year-old daughter away from the cellphone.

It got Lucas to thinking about when she’ll give her daughter her own smartphone — a device many adults didn’t have a decade ago but now seems ubiquitous, even among children. “This is new territory,” Lucas said. “As parents, we’re navigating something our parents didn’t navigate. Trying to figure it out as we go is hard.”

As kids head back to school, many parents are wrestling with a relatively new rite of passage: when to give their kids a smartphone. While the average child gets his or her first smartphone at 10, according to research firm Influence Central, some parents in Chicago and across the country are bucking the trend by promising to wait until their children are in eighth grade — when they’re typically 13 or 14.

 

You may ask what the point is in not giving your child a cellphone? They are a great convenience, they give you the ability to check up on your child at any time and know where they are. But in a lengthy article from The Atlantic Magazine called “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” author Jean M. Twenge cites decades of her own research that shows cellphones are negatively impacting our kids. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen. I’ve posted a few paragraphs of the article below:

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

The allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens.

At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them.

I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.

If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.

I find it interesting that Prof. Twenge cites the years 1995-2012 as the iGen—because my youngest falls in that group and is on her phone all the time. My oldest is a couple years older, and although he’s always been into technology, my daughter makes fun of him for “being too old” for social media. He’s more comfortable on FaceBook like us old folks and doesn’t use SnapChat and rarely Instagram. It’s fascinating there’s such a big difference in their connection to their phones. In high school, he was spending time hanging out with his friends as often as he could–just like we did back in the day. My daughter spends time communicating with her friends over her phone. She does get together with them, but her downtime is spent tapping away on her iphone.

 

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Friends climbing rocks, jumping through waves–no cell phones around.

What do you think about the 8th grade pledge? Does the research about increased depression and anxiety affecting the iGen kids who grew up with cellphones alarm you? What type of rules do you have with your kids about cellphones?

 

 

5 Tips for Parents to Get Their Kids to Put Their Phones Down

 

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One thing about swimming: your kids can’t swim and text.

Every day there are articles about social media and how it affects our children. I see the issue when kids sit next to each other, not talking, but texting or posting. My own daughter got in trouble with her coach for inappropriate texts when she was in high school. I feel like social media can be a landmine for our children. What can we do as parents to help them avoid the problems and pitfalls?

 

In the Washington Post’s article “5 ways parents can help kids balance social media with the real world,” the author Adrienne Wichard-Edds, gives practical advice on what to do about the constant presence and temptation of smartphones and kids.

“According to a 2015 report from Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day consuming online entertainment.

“In search of advice on how to parent teens whose social lives hinge on a click, I turned to Ana Homayoun, a Silicon Valley-based expert on teen behavior. Her book Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World comes out next month.

“We’re having the wrong conversations with our kids around social media,” she says. “When we focus on fear and judgment — when we say ‘don’t do that because you’ll get in trouble,’ or ‘if you do that, you won’t get into college’ — kids will just go underground and find other ways to hide their online interactions.”

We all want our kids to be in the real world and spend less time online. But, what can we do about it? I’ve heard people argue that social media is fine and it’s a new way of communicating. My parents were annoyed with my brother and me who talked on the phone with our best friends for hours. My parents said more than once, “Why don’t you go over to their house, or have them over?” Kids no longer are attached to a long cord hooked to the wall but are posting and texting instead.

Here are five tips discussed in the article:

ONE
“Check your kid’s phone. “Particularly in middle school but also in high school, kids should know that parents can ask for their phones at any point and be allowed full access,” Homayoun says.

TWO
“Be app-savvy. “If your kid is on it, you should be, too,” Homayoun says of apps and social media platforms. “You don’t have to have an account, but at least try it out so you can have informed conversations about it. If your kids know that you understand the social media they’re using, they’re more likely to come to you to talk about issues that pop up.”

THREE
“Help kids understand their “why.” Inspire kids to act out of internal motivation instead of fear, Homayoun says, by helping them build their own filter. “Encourage your kids to ask themselves ‘Why am I picking up my phone? Am I bored, am I lonely, am I sad? Am I just uncomfortable because I’m in a room where I don’t know anyone?’

FOUR
“Set clear ground rules. Talk to your kids about appropriate social media use before you give them a phone or allow them to download a new app, says Homayoun.

FIVE
“Create opportunities for digital detox. “Give kids a budget to plan their own screen-free adventures — don’t just say, ‘Okay, kids, get offline and come do some chores,’ ” Homayoun says. She also points out that kids need to learn how to be okay with being offline.”

I’m curious about how other families deal with social media. My kids are older and I was the mom who said “no” to MySpace, Facebook etc. My kids had prepaid flip phones and their big thrill was to get one with a camera. Also, very few kids back then had access to smartphones. It was a big discussion with fellow parents about what age kids should have them. Now, they are part of our daily lives and I bet more kids have them than not.

What are your strategies for dealing with social media and younger kids?

 

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I had a pink phone like this in my bedroom and talked to my friends for hours.

 

Are Children Living Life Through a Lens?

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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 eachother.

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.