Early Intervention: Technology Use and the Developing Child

Decades of research show us that early intervention for infants, toddlers and young school age children with developmental delays or disabilities positively impacts outcomes across many developmental domains. But what do we know about early intervention in relation to the impact of technology use and the developing child?

Parents trying to find balance for their young child and technology, might be asking themselves questions like these:

*Technology is not a drug so why is my young child becoming addicted?

*How is technology affecting my young child’s brain development, communication skills, attention span, or overall mental and physical health?

*Is screen time interfering with my young child’s basic functions in healthy child development such as sleep, healthy eating habits, important parent-child interactions and signs of recognition and understanding such as eye contact, smiles and other forms of facial expression?

*If my young child doesn’t understand when technology is trying to lure them in, should devices and apps be banned for children under a certain age?

Parents seeking to understand how they can use early intervention strategies in finding balance with technology use and their developing child might consider the following:

*Spending quality time with your young child offline is the first step toward early intervention and cultivating a healthy balance between technology and every day life.

*Use verbal praise, positive conversation, or hugs as rewards for good behavior instead of screen time will result in helping a young child regulate their own emotions.

*Be aware of the addictive nature of technology designs.  Companies need to be held accountable and encouraged to change the designs of their technology devices and apps to make them less addictive to all ages.

*Become the family or neighborhood expert on how technology addiction affects the young brain and how early intervention and finding a healthy balance can positively impact young children.

Smartphones, Social Media and Teens: Benefits, Risks and Radiation?

Teens, across the nation and around the world, will be heading back to school soon. While teens were “relaxing” over the summer, researchers were doing their due diligence by continuing to explore the impact smartphones and social media have on teens.  Let’s take a look at what we know and explore some new information that might be helpful to teens, parents and educators.

What we’ve known for a while is that smartphones and social media have been linked to anxiety, depression, stress, lack of sleep, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts found in teens.  Teen anxiety and depression treatment centers have risen up in large numbers.  Longer hours on social media have been found to increase a teen’s risk of cyberbullying, lower self-esteem and may cause loss of valuable friend, family, and personal time.

While social media has benefits such as instant and often meaningful communication with family and peers, being constantly on has become a social media trap for many teens.  By increasing the time spent on measuring and managing their social media success on sites like Instagram and Snapchat, experts fear overuse may be adding risks to teen’s mental health.  Being constantly on, plugged in 24/7 – many teens never get a break.

Statistically, girls who spend several hours on their smartphones and social media each day tend to develop more social and emotional problems than boys.  Teen girls spend more time cultivating their online identity, comparing themselves to their peers and paying more attention to “likes.”  Teen boys tend to spend more time gaming and less time worrying about online identity.

Recently it was noted that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone.  We know that teens who are constantly on, keeping up with the latest apps, gaming, spending longer hours on social media, and wondering and worrying about how they measure up to their peers run the risk of higher than normal academic challenges and mental health issues.

Adult awareness to the many tactics used to get teens (and others) hooked to social media is the first step toward understanding and breaking the “constantly on” cycle.  Adults have, at their fingertips, bundles of research and studies as to the “why and how” teenagers get hooked, become addicted to social networking, and, as a consequence, have difficulty putting their smartphone and other devices aside.

The Latest…When it comes to smartphones, social media and teens, it now appears there is more to consider.  In a recent article entitled, “Smartphones are killing teenagers’ memories, study says” by Chris Ciaccia, it was suggested and supported by the study referred to in the title, that radiation from smartphones is negatively impacting teenagers’ memories, leaving them with short-term memory loss. Perhaps now that more people are incorporating more organic living into so many aspects of their lives, they might also consider putting down their technology.

Reference:

https://www.swisstph.ch/en/news/news-detail/news/mobile-phone-radiation-may-affect-memory-performance-in-adolescents/

Echo Dot Dot Dot…

Remember when you first learned how to echo?  Maybe you were on a hike and your voice reflected off a wall or mountain.  Maybe you were imitating or repeating everything said by your best friend.  Maybe you were eliciting a sympathetic response to a sentiment expressed.

Until recently echo meant any or all of the above.  With the introduction of Amazon Echo and, most recently, Echo Dot For Kids into homes around the world, the word “echo” has taken on new meaning.

Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses a smart speaker Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news and more.

Echo Dot For Kids, is being marketed as a kid-friendly DJ, comedian, and storyteller.  Boys and girls can ask her to play music, read stories, answer questions, tell jokes and more.  If there are compatible Echo devices in the house, parents and kids can even “talk” to each other or tell each other good morning or good night.

Unlike the outdoor echo experience of a voice bouncing off canyon walls, young voices are heard, responded to by a voice-activated speaker recording everything your child says all in the “privacy” of your own home.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that children are a key market for tech companies.  With the introduction of Echo Dot For Kids, advocates by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) say voice activated devices could prove to be a security risk as well as just one more device to encourage compulsive technology use.  Further, Google, Amazon and Facebook have all introduced devices or messaging services for kids that could potentially put a child’s privacy at risk and cause further exploitation.

What’s next?  Is parenting being replaced with devices?  What are tech companies doing to promote face-to-face, authentic, family connections?

Managing Technology During Summer Break

Summer is coming and with it the promise of exploration, adventure and fun! Summertime gives kids everywhere a chance to take a break from the school year routine and experience a more relaxed, unhurried, less structured few weeks.

What’s to prevent a child from experiencing a much needed unhurried pace?  Something that might be overlooked, especially by working parents, is kids, rather than parents, determining their own technology use time.

Pediatricians and other experts have sent strong warnings to the public that too much technology use (more than 2 hours a day) can result in negative behaviors and impact normal brain development. Given free reign to decide, studies show that children of all ages will spend up to 9 hours a day on technology – well over the limit of what experts recommend.

Recently, there has been a public outcry holding social networking companies responsible for our growing technology addiction.  While those who have been encouraging this addiction attempt explain away or, in some cases, find solutions, parents can take charge.  By limiting screen time, unplugging, and participating in fun activities kids will have greater opportunity to make the most of their summerbreak.

Set some summertime technology use goals ~

  1. Similar to a family tech use contract, make a summer tech use plan. List all the devices in the home, who uses them, for how many hours/day and prioritize health and well being over technology use.
  2. Everyone pitch in and take responsibility for daily chores.
  3. Read books together and play games.
  4. Take tech free walks, hikes or trips.
  5. Technology is part of our lives so rather than forbid it, limit it or save it for the end of the day.
  6. Each person in the family tell a story and use technology to make a movie, illustrate, or retell the story in their own words.
  7. Let your kids know it’s ok to be bored, daydream and be a kid.

Social Media Challenges Are The New Dares

Dares have been around for a long time.  Accepting dares for any number of reasons, kids have been known to burn themselves with erasers, touch hot stove coils, and choke themselves. Common results were pain, scarring or worse.

Social Media Challenges are the new dares In many cases causing, irreparable damage to a person’s otherwise healthy body, Social Media Challenges are the latest in what’s being termed as stupid and dangerous internet fads.   Social Media Challenges such as the  Tide Pod ChallengeHot Coil Challenge and Deodorant Challenge take inflicting bodily harm to a new level.  In the news recently, first, second and even third degree burns are known to be the result of holding an arm, for as long as possible, on a red hot stove coil (Hot Coil Challenge) or spraying deodorant on someone, in the same spot, for as long as possible (Deodorant Challenge) for all the world to see!

Accepting the Deodorant Challenge, 3 young teenage girls suffered horrific burns, were hospitalized and now face skin grafts.  The Deodorant Challenge, also known as the aerosol challenge, has been around for a while.  A year ago, parents were warned about the Deodorant Challenge and advised to impress upon their children the dangers of burns of any type including those from pressurized gas within a deodorant can.

Summer is coming and with it the possibility of kids getting bored and, to fill the gap, spending hours and hours on social media.  Social Media Challenges may be tempting so before boredom sets in, talk to your child about the dangers of participating in Social Media Challenges.  Help your child understand that Social Media Challenges may damage or permanently scar a perfectly healthy body ~ for life!

LiveMe: App For Live Video Streaming or Pedophile’s Online Paradise?

Live video streaming– Teens and adults are using it more and more to broadcast, chat, share and follow one another. But let’s take a look at the popular LiveMe app and explore who uses it, who benefits from it, what are the safeguards and is it appropriate for 13+ as suggested.

LiveMe first advertised itself as the number 1 way to watch live streaming videos with video chat.  Over time, there has been an attempt by the advertisers to market to younger adults and now, children age 13+.  All types of enticements are built into this app to get streamers of the viewer’s attention.  So, what’s the downside of LiveMe and why are parents and child psychologists concerned about LiveMe?

Kids love LiveMe because it gives them confidence.  What kids don’t understand is that they have no way to know or control who is viewing them or what the person viewing is doing with the live streaming videos. There appears to be no administrative vigilance of actual age of user, sexual, or harassment commentary.

A Fox news investigation recently found LiveMe has been downloaded 96 million times, shares the users locations and allows the user to search for who is streaming near them. The investigation also found that pedophiles are using the popular live streaming app LiveMe to manipulate underage girls as young as eight years old to do sexual things on camera in return for virtual currency.  In addition, some of these same pedophiles are recording and posting these livestreams online as child porn. In reality, as stated by an expert in the investigation, LiveMe is a platform for child pornography.

LiveMe is currently being investigated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Cyber Crime Response Agency – all with good reason.  As witnessed numerous videos of young females of questionable age, young girls are being asked, by adult males, to lift their shirts, take off their panties and/or strip, send nudes and chat dirty, all for coins and emojis.

Parents and other child advocates are speaking up about LiveMe.  Some sickened by LiveMe, are demanding it be better regulated and that the youngest user be age 18+.  Some want it taken down altogether.  Others say it’s another gateway for pedophiles and children desperately seeking attention and fame. Safeguards against exploitation and manipulation of children need to be in place and enforced.

Knowing Why Teens Value Social Media

Knowing why teens value social media is just as important as understanding why teens are taking breaks from social media.  Behind teens and social media is purpose driven social media marketing.  Not unlike adults, teens desire to be relevant, be a part of a group or community and have value.  Unlike when their parents were growing up and had personal friend connections but often limited transportation or restrictions on time to be with those friends, teens today can hang out with their friends, all the time, 24/7, wherever they are! Social media has created a feeling of connectedness never experienced in human history.

Teens talk about their desires, personal issues, fears, and thoughts on social media.  But there is a downside to all of this connectedness ~ social media is also where cyberbullying and sexual exploitation of young people occur.  Sadly, many teens and younger children, who are being victimized, seldom tell their parents until it is too late.

Parents need to be present in their teen’s social media world while educators need to be vigilant in recognizing signs of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, poor sleep habits, eating disorders or body image issues in their students, which all may be related to the affects of social media.

Are Security Measures Scaring Or Preparing Kids And Adults For A School Shooting?

ONE school shooting is too many!  What are schools across the country doing to improve school safety?  How are children handling school preparedness?  Do students feel safe in school?

In response to recent school shootings, school security measures may actually be doing more to scare kids than protect them. It’s worth examining the notion that in our attempt to prepare and secure our schools, we might be overlooking some basic steps schools can take to improve safety that don’t terrify kids.

Security suggestions should include:

  1. Police and other first responders take regular tours of school grounds so that they become familiar with building layouts.
  2. Use apps available to alert teachers and school leadership about potential threats.
  3. While protecting students’ rights, set up a collaborative environment where parents, staff and kids are free to report any troubling behavior or potential incidents.
  4. Fund more qualified counselors and social workers to help with student mental health issues.
  5. Train staff in threat assessment management.
  6. Invite experts to evaluate the safety of school buildings themselves. Take into consideration entrances and exits, fenced areas, secured doors, fire code rules, cameras, how visitors gain access (ID, sign in, etc.) and mandatory school safety training for all staff.
  7. Emergency procedures must be clear and simple, rehearsed and practiced.

Rather than live in fear and create anxiety for kids, be prepared, be ready!

Why Digital Citizenship Is More Important Than Ever

Respect, educate, prevent and protect are commonly associated with digital citizenship.  Today, we are finding these common elements are more important than even when it comes to how students and adults conduct themselves, especially on social media.

Digital Citizenship as defined in an article written by Terry Heick, is “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patters that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

Heick goes on to write, “As more and more students interact digitally – with content, one another, and various communities – the concept of digital citizenship becomes increasingly important.”  “The Definition of Digital Citizenship” (2017).

Heavy use of information technology today requires certain sites to set and enforce a standard of digital etiquette that involves the use of appropriate behavior and language. Without such expectations digital citizens may experience digital laws broken, rights violated, physical and mental stress, and/or online security jeopardized.

Teens, Brain Matters And Social Media

There have been several articles written about how social media affects the brain. CNN reported recently that researchers at UCLA’s Brain Mapping Center found that when teenagers’ photos get lots of “likes” on social media apps, such as Instagram, their brains respond in a similar way to seeing loved ones or winning money.

Dr. Lisa Strohman, Founder and CEO of Digital Citizen Academy, in her frequent presentations to parents and teachers, stresses the fact that regions of the brain in teens become “activated” by “likes”, with the brain’s reward center becoming especially active.  She compares face-to-face interactions with online interactions and the obvious fact that, when you go online, there is no way to “read” someone’s facial expressions. Often interactions are misinterpreted and messages ineffective.

Teens spend an average of 9 hours a day on social media, which now researchers say is affecting the brain’s neuroplasticity – the way the brain grows and changes after experiencing different things.  What does this mean for future generations?  As teens grow up, will they, for example, be able to read subtle expressions on faces?   How will they adapt differently to their environment?