Managing Technology During Summertime

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.

Brain 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?

Digital Addiction: Social Networking ~ A 24/7 Distraction

Addiction defined is the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.

 In a recent article in the Boston Herald stating, “What began as a method of emergency contact has evolved into a 24/7 distraction, spurring what many would classify as a digital addiction for adults and teens alike,” underscores the need for parents, educators and entire communities to understand the implications for this and future generations. (“Teenagers, adults dangerously addicted to cellphones, says study,”by Lindsay Kalter, Monday, May 7. 2018)

Digital addiction begins in early childhood years when parents first put devices in kid’s hands to soothe or distract them.  Small children are known to throw tantrums or become depressed and anxious when devices are withheld.  We now know that what begins as an addiction early in life, can manifest itself into uncontrollable anger, anxiety, eating disorders and even suicide for teens, failing grades, shorter attention spans, distracted driving, conversations with complete strangers, likes for photos from thousands of people we don’t know, sleep loss, and deficient brain development.

A former Facebook VP, Chamath Palihapitiya, has said publicly that social media is destroying society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops.’  He feels guilt over his role in promoting social networking in a way that it has eroded “the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”  He admits he and others knew something bad could happen with the development of the FB platform.  He also admits that he seldom uses social networks and does not allow his children to use them at all.

Questions parents and teachers should be asking:  How does social networking impact the students in your school or at home?  What, if any, steps have been taken to decrease the amount of time students are on their cell phones during school hours or at home?