Violent Video Games – What Are They Teaching Teens?

Are violent video games teaching teens that violence is an acceptable way to solve conflicts?

Violent Video Games

In a recent study, it was revealed that 97% of US kids age 12-17 play video games.  Further, it is estimated that more than half of all video games on the market today portray some form of violence.

Earlier this year, pediatric groups concluded that violent video games increase aggression.  In a related article, it was pointed out that we, as a nation, need to raise awareness of what young people are seeing online and educate ourselves about how games are shaping people’s thoughts and behavior.

Three years ago, the American Psychology Association created a task force and reported that research now demonstrates a link between violent video game use resulted in increased aggressive behavior and decreased social, emotional, moral behavior and empathy.

Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that violent media sets poor examples for kids.  “Video games, the Academy noted, should not use human or other living targets or award points for killing, because this teaches children to associate pleasure and success with their ability to cause pain and suffering to others.”  (July 2016 Guideline on Media Violence)

With new and innovative advances in technology platforms, virtual violence in video games plays out in realistic ways that include increased aggression, violent themes such as hand-to-hand combat, wars and shootings, crude language, increased bullying, fighting and violence toward women.

Virtual violence begs the question asked at the beginning of this blog: Are violent video games teaching teens and younger children that violence is an acceptable way to solve conflicts? There is now compelling evidence from research studies indicating that violent video game play does, indeed, increase psychological and physical aggression.

What can parents do?  Parents should take it upon themselves to research the video games their children want to play, take into consideration the rating of the game, and be mindful of possible long-term effects to ensure content is appropriate for the child’s age group.  With numerous educational video games on the market that focus on adventure, skill building, and critical thinking, children should be encouraged to play these games instead of violent games.

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.

What We Know About Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “It is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.”  Raising awareness about suicidal ideation and offering viable treatment resources and services can offer support to victims and their families.  While Suicide Prevention Month provides a specified time to focus on this difficult topic, it is important to address suicide year-round.

Recent reports indicate the leading cause of death in children under 14 years of age is suicide associated with being bullied.  During the back-to-school season, it is prudent for parents and educators to understand that bullying and cyberbullying is prevalent, how it presents itself, and how it can be prevented.

Bullying is not new but only recently has been coined a ‘silent epidemic’ in America.  Bullying, on or off line, happens when a person is picked on over and over again by one or a group of individuals.  Cyberbullying is subtle. Since it is often done anonymously, cyberbullying is hard to trace. Cyberbullying can cause extreme damage to a person’s reputation and mental health.   As with bullying, victims of cyberbullying may experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleeplessness, dramatic mood changes, thinking about death, and suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, if  bullying or cyberbullyingcontinues, suicide may follow.

Bullies vs Cyberbullies:  What’s the difference?

Bullies

Display minimal or no empathy toward others.

Attack their victims physically by hitting, punching, tripping, or even sexual assault.

Psychologically target their victims through dominating, shaming, and demeaning behavior.

Target their victims verbally through insults, teasing, taunting, gossip, and verbal assaults.

Exclude their victims from cliques or groups.

Cyberbullies

Display little or no empathy toward others.

Harass, threaten or embarrass their victims through mean, rude texts and inappropriate posts or messages on social sites.

Stalk, manipulate, and harass their victims through fake online accounts.

Confuse and frustrate their victims by giving them no knowledge of how many people are involved or who knows about the bullying.

What are schools doing?  Schools are putting more safeguards in place against all forms of bullying.  Punishment for both bullies and cyberbullies can be serious to the point of suspension, expulsion or even legal consequences.

How can parents help?  Parents can help prevent bullying/cyberbullying from occurring by encouraging their child to….

Walk away

Tell someone

Never share passwords, personal data, or private photos

Report the bully

Save the evidence

Block the bully from all devices

Resist retaliation

 

A Global Look at Cyberbullying Among Young Children and Teens

It is well documented that bullying has moved from the playground into our virtual world.  More and more families and educators have become aware that cyberbullying is a pervasive global issue impacting tens of thousands of young childrenteens (and adults) each day.  So, while awareness is gaining momentum, the question remains – Are numbers of cyberbullying incidents decreasing?

In an August 25, 2018 article published by Sam Cook in Internet Providers, he wrote, “While better connecting the world and democratizing information, the internet has also allowed individuals to hide behind masks of anonymity. The “faceless evil” of the internet is a growing threat for teens, specifically when it comes cyberbullying. Despite a recent ramp up of awareness campaigns, cyberbullying facts and statistics indicate the problem is not going away anytime soon.”

The article goes on to say “A 2007 Pew Research study found 32 percent of teens have been victims of some type of cyberbullying. Nearly a decade later, a 2016 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center found those numbers were almost unchanged. By 2016, just under 34 percent of teens reported they were victims of cyberbullying. Meanwhile, the National Crime Prevention Council puts that number much higher, at 43 percent.” (Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2016-2018, Published by Sam Cook on August 25, 2018 in Internet Providers)

Social media is considered a primary source of online harassment.  Anonymity encourages cyberbullying for the simple reason that someone can send threatening or embarrassing messages or photos and not be seen or named.  Globally, whether teen or adult, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance and mental capabilities are fair game for online cyberbullying and harassment.

For young children and teens the way families and schools around the world recognize and respond to cyberbullying varies but, due to all the attention cyberbullying has received over the past few years, common tips and trends have surfaced in ways to recognize it, prevent it, know what to do if it happens to you and know what to do if you see it happen.

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.