During your children’s elementary school years, surfing the web, doing homework online, DM’ing with friends, or keeping up with the latest video games, it starts looking like they are pretty grown up, right? Not so fast! You’re great at helping them navigate a host of new ideas and in-person interactions, but let’s not take off the training wheels on technology use quite yet.

On February 23, 2022, at 12pm, Children and Screens hosted the #AskTheExperts webinar “5 to 11: Keeping the Training Wheels on Tech, a must-see primer on what you need to pay attention to and understand to help children mitigate risks and make the most of their digital lives at this critical stage in their development. How do you provide your children with space to grow and explore, while also protecting them online? What are the most important skills to teach your child as they begin to traverse the digital world? At what age is it okay to buy your child a cell phone? How much video gaming should you allow? How can you help them avoid tech addiction? We gathered a renowned interdisciplinary panel of researchers, authors, and clinicians to answer these and other burning questions. The experts grappled with all facets of children’s digital lives from gaming to learning, specific digital literacy skills that children need and problematic internet use. This important discussion exploring middle childhood was the second in our mini-series of #AskTheExperts webinars about screen use across ages and stages.

Speakers

  • Lauren Hale, PhD

    Professor of Family, Population, and Preventative Medicine; Founding Editor-in-Chief Stony Brook University School of Medicine; Sleep Health
    Moderator
  • Victor Strasburger, MD

    Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus University of New Mexico School of Medicine
  • Brandon McDaniel, PhD

    Research Scientist Parkview Research Center
  • Elizabeth Englander, PhD

    Executive Director and Founder; Professor of Psychology Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center; Bridgewater State University

When should I get my child their own phone, tablet, or computer? What is the best way to monitor what my child is doing online? As a parent, how can I model healthy device use? These questions plague 21st century parents, and don’t always have a straightforward answer. Watch the February 23rd Children and Screens “Ask the Experts” webinar, “5 to 11: Keeping the Training Wheels on Tech” to learn more about what we do know, and to hear answers to several other pressing questions. The panel of expert researchers and clinicians shared their insights and evidence-based advice to help you navigate your elementary schooler’s technology use – from what they are viewing to when.

00:00 Introduction

02:43 Lauren Hale, PhD

Setting the stage for the discussion, moderator Lauren Hale, PhD, Professor of Family, Population, and Preventative Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Founding Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Health, outlines the key developmental processes that unfold during middle childhood. Dr. Hale introduces the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional growth that occurs between the ages of 5 and 11, as well as how technology use can help and hinder optimal development.

06:31 Elizabeth Englander, PhD

Recognizing that we cannot fully eliminate screens from our lives, Elizabeth Englander, PhD, Executive Director and Founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center and Professor of Psychology at Bridgewater State University, argues that teaching children how to use the internet in safe and healthy ways is critical. Dr. Englander offers tips and strategies for both parents and children to examine their behaviors and establish healthier relationships with technology. She encourages parents to model healthy use of technology, and spend non-screen time together, as well as engage in a “Post-Pandemic Screen Talk,” focusing on the five key discussion points she and her research team have identified as the most useful.

24:10 Victor Strasburger, MD

Continuing the conversation about the pandemic’s impacts on screen time and mental health, Victor Strasburger, MD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, argues that the many ways digital media are impacting mental health and wellbeing pose a true public health concern. Dr. Strasburger outlines the concerns that parents and clinicians share regarding children’s media use and lists practical strategies for protecting children from harm.

38:54 Lauren Hale, PhD

Jumping back in to share her expertise on sleep, Dr. Lauren Hale elaborates on how children’s increased screen time is affecting their sleep, weight, and vision. She elaborates on each of these topics in turn and provides insightful guidance on how to keep screen use from interfering with healthy physical development.

51:47 Brandon T. McDaniel, PhD

Taking a direct look at the role that parents’ behaviors play in how digital media use habits develop and how screen time impacts kids, Brandon T. McDaniel, PhD, Research Scientist at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, explains how both parent modeling and technoference (e.g., parent device use that may get in the way of parent-child interactions and time) affect childrens’ perceptions of proper media use, the quality of the parent-child relationship, and even their feelings about themselves. He implores parents to mindfully consider how and when they use their devices during family time or parenting and to open up a dialogue with their children about healthy digital media use.

1:05:14 Group Q&A

Addressing questions from the audience, Dr. Hale invites all of the panelists to provide their perspectives on the age at which children should have access to certain technologies, how to manage school-provided devices, and what specific apps to use to protect children from harmful content. Host Arlene Pellicane, parenting expert, author and speaker, chimes in with advice based on her own experience as a mother of three. The panelists wrap up the discussion by each sharing one main takeaway for parents.

[Arlene Pellicane] Well, hello, everyone, and welcome. We are so glad to have you here. My name is Arlene Pellicane, and I’m honored to be subbing in for Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra, as host for today’s “Ask the Experts” webinar on behalf of Children and Screens, Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. For those who don’t know me, I am the author of nine books, including Parents Rising and Screen Kids and Grandparenting Screen Kids. That one is co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, of the Five Love Languages. And I get to host a podcast, which is a lot of fun called The Happy Home, and I am one of the institute’s ambassadors. We are so grateful that you have joined us today for 5 to 11: Keeping the Training Wheels on Tech. This is part two of our trilogy, covering what we know about the cognitive, psychosocial, behavioral, and physical effects of digital media across ages and developmental stages. That’s a mouthful, I know, and as a mother of three kids, I understand how difficult it can be to make sure that our kids are given every possible chance to enjoy a happy and healthy childhood in this increasingly digital environment and that digital environment provides many attractions, distractions and challenges. And that’s why I’m so excited to welcome our esteemed panel of researchers and clinicians who will be taking you on a deep dive about the impacts of technology on elementary aged children. Our panelists have reviewed the questions you submitted. Thank you so much for doing that. Submitted when you registered, and they look forward to answering as many as they can during our time today. Now you can submit additional questions, it’s not too late. You can use the Q&A box any time at the bottom of your screen, and the panel will consider all your questions and answer as many as time permits. The recording from today’s workshop will be uploaded to YouTube in a few days. All registrants will receive a link to the children and screens YouTube channel where you will find recordings of the past, get this, 41 webinars. That is a wealth of information. I encourage you to explore them all while you wait for this particular video to be posted. All of those will be there. Now it is my pleasure to introduce Dr. Lauren Hale, our moderator for today’s webinar. Dr. Hale is a professor of family, population and preventative medicine at Stony Book, Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine. She is the chair of the Board of Directors of the National Sleep Foundation and the founding editor in chief of the journal Sleep Health.She also serves on the scientific advisory panel of the Pajama Program and Children and Screens. Welcome, Dr. Hale. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Hi. Thank you so much for having me here and I’m ready to moderate this fantastic panel. To kick it off, I have a video that the team, the incredible team at Children’s Screens, created along with some accompanying bullet points on what you can expect in this age range, ages 5 to 11. So why don’t we start the bullet? Start the video, and I’ll go through the bullet points. Let’s do it! Between the ages of 5 and 1, children undergo so much growth physically, cognitively and emotionally. To start with the physical development, kids are perfecting both fine and gross motor skills. You should encourage activities that benefit both. They love testing their physical limits and being active. Gross motor skills and agility are enhanced by structured sports and other physical activities. Make sure screen time isn’t interfering with these activities and time spent outdoors. Fine motor skills are critical as they learn to tie their own shoes, button their clothes, and write. These skills require practice, practice, practice. Cognitive development. Children at this age are beginning to understand how to apply logic, reasoning and problem solving skills to certain events. But others remain dominated by their own perceptions and limited understanding. Your child’s view of the world may seem very egocentric, but they are developing a much better understanding of cause and effect relationships and how their actions impact others. Parents should encourage activities that will work on memory, attention and problem solving skills such as puzzles, board games, science experiments, building things, or helping in the kitchen. In terms of language and literacy development, after age six, children can process their private speech as inner thoughts, and by eight years, most children are able to read. Throughout elementary school years, your child will learn many things around language, communication, and literacy. Here are some key things to remember. Encourage children to be imaginative and create their own stories and act out their favorites to foster creativity and a love of reading. Children will learn a lot of new vocabulary over the next few years, and reading is the best tool. Digital literacy is also important. The language used on digital tools can look very different from formal language and the process for finding information online is different than in a book. Social and emotional development. Friendships become increasingly important during this period. Friends help teach social skills and create a sense of belonging. These friendships are overwhelmingly positive, but some friends can be bossy and stubborn. Be aware of bullying and help your child learn to manage difficult social situations. Emotion, regulation and perspective taking abilities are expanding during these years, which help guide their social interactions. Parents should work with their children to help them understand their own emotions, and those of others. Play changes too. At this age, play often revolves around acting out real world situations they’ve observed at school, at home, or in the media. It’s critical for parents to be aware of the situations their child is exposed to due to the influences on their moral development and understanding of the world. Your child can start to handle a bit more independence and responsibility, which will promote self-confidence and motivation. But at this age, it’s best to remain present and guide children through difficult situations. Co- viewing and co-engagement with digital tools is a great way to model good behavior for your child and be aware of what they encounter online. So to kick it off, we have Dr. Elizabeth Englander. She’s the founder and executive director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University as a researcher and a professor of psychology for 25 years. She’s a nationally recognized expert in the area of bullying, cyber bullying, child causes of aggression and abuse, and children’s use of technology. Today, she’ll be talking about Internet safety and how parents can mitigate risks and what skills children need to know at these years. Welcome. 

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Thank you, Lauren, and welcome, everyone. I’m going to be talking a little bit about some of the work we’ve been doing, both on the Internet safety and what I want to call Internet health, which I think is incredibly important, especially in this age group.So I’m going to go ahead and share my screen. All right. You should be able to see that now. I think that one of the issues that’s really important when we talk about Internet safety especially in younger children and elementary school age children, is to really think not just about how we’re not going to have them use screens, but about how they’re going to live with screens in a healthy way and develop healthy relationships with their screens. Healthy habits. Excuse me. And I think that kind of goal setting is incredibly important for young children right now. So, one of the things that’s been happening over the last two years is the research team that I had has been focusing increasingly not just on bullying and digital behaviors, but also on how kids are adapting to the pandemic. And we have noticed in our research that there’s been an increase in problems like fighting and some misbehavior among kids in schools. And this is not terribly shocking because, of course, children have been under a great deal of stress, as have adults. And we see it in their behaviors. So what are the issues we’re looking at that we think are feeding this? And all of this is I’m going to get back to screens. Don’t worry if it seems like I’m going off topic for a moment. The first thing is we know kids are struggling a little bit with social skills, and we see that in their online behavior and we see it in their in person behavior. And that probably has to do with being so socially restricted during the pandemic. We also know that there are increases in anxiety and depression and that these are normal and that, you know, normal in the sense that they have been noted everywhere. Everyone that has done research has found some increases especially in anxiety among children in this age group. And I think it has to do with the world changing and being such an incredibly unpredictable place. And, of course, we’ve seen an incredible increase in screen time. Right. And early on in the pandemic, you might have heard a statistic that screen time doubled. It might have at that point, since then, research has suggested it’s increased maybe 65 or 70%. That’s still a huge, huge increase. And one of the questions that we get quite a lot from parents is, how do we dial this back? How do we put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak? How do we get back to the kind of screen use we had before the pandemic? And I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen. I mean, I think things are going to settle down. I think that we are going to work, all work towards helping kids do things other than screens. And I think we should sort of view that as a new normal that we’re going to be marching towards, that we’re going to be helping kids develop their abilities as Lauren was talking about, and, you know, really develop in a healthy kind of way going forward. One of the points I do want to make is sometimes when it comes to digital behaviors, we make the mistake of focusing on problems that are really unusual or rare, but scary. And by doing that, we forget to pay attention to issues that are really common. So we find in our research and in other people’s research that only about 9% of children, for example, are ever solicited by a stranger online. But about half of them report some kind of mental health issue resulting or associated with screen use. And then, of course, that doesn’t take into account all the other health issues like Dr. Hale’s area, which is about sleep. Incredibly important work she’s doing. And I think overall, we really do need to pay attention to using screens in a very healthy way. But being a professor of psychology, I’m going to focus for a minute on the health issues and screen use that have to do with psychological life. So, for example, one of the things that we know is that technology use typically does not lead to really sort of deep friendships for children in the way that Face-To-Face interactions do. Now, we know that kids feel connected with their friends when they’re online in the moment, but they don’t often they can’t often use digital interactions to form really close friendships, and that’s one of the limitations of it. Another thing is that we know that face to face interactions are sort of the primary way that children develop social skills. So learning how to do things like go up to somebody and, you know, make friends with somebody new or how to speak to people or how to look people in the eye, these are all incredibly important social skills. And we also know that even really high quality interactions cannot substitute for in-person time. Now, having said all this, screens are not going to go away, and we all know this. So what are some of the concrete actions that you can take as a parent? But that can sort of help your children use their screens in a healthy way, in a balanced way with other kinds of activities as they’re growing up through elementary school? I think the first point I want to make is that people tend to be very frightened about the mistakes that kids make online.

And I just want to reassure you about this because I see mistakes kids make online every day. And mistakes kids make online can cause problems. They can cause social problems. Often they don’t really cause any severe problems. And I think it’s really important to understand that what your kids are doing online is likely not anything incredibly dangerous. Or incredibly risky.

Most of the time, kids are interacting with other kids from their local school, and they’re doing it through gaming or social media. This can cause problems, but usually it’s not a situation where they are routinely interacting, for example, with adults who are strangers. And it’s really important to do that so that you as a parent can not feel too anxious about this and feel like you can handle it. One of the things we’ve been working on, which is really interesting, is how to talk to kids about dialing back screen use now that the pandemic is sort of winding down, we all hope. And we actually test drove a couple of different approaches with groups of kids to see if the data could help inform us about what type of approach works the best. And what we came up with is something called the Post-Pandemic Screen Talk. Obviously, we’re not post-pandemic, but we’ve been sort of later in the pandemic, which is where we are. But anyway, there are a couple of elements that were basically five elements that kids seem to respond to the most readily that they understood, could take in, and could talk about. The first is making the point that, yes, during the pandemic, we absolutely needed screens. We needed them to go to school. We needed them to go to work. But the worst, we hope, of this pandemic is over. We hope we’re never going to again have to go into anything like lockdowns. And because of that, we also know that screens are associated with some kinds of problems. So, for example, we know that anxiety really is associated with social media use in children. And because we know there’s problems and because the worst of the pandemic does appear to be over. It’s probably time to revisit family rules and to really think about it and to sit down at the dinner table one night and have a conversation about where you think you might go from here and what those rules might look like. Because chances are if you’re like most people in America, when this pandemic hit, a lot of the rules got relaxed or just thrown out the window. And we were all just trying our best to cope. And that’s totally understandable. But sometimes sitting down, you know, with everybody at dinner and talking about these four points seem to seem to help. The fifth point that really helped for the kids was hearing from the grownups that we know this is going to be another adjustment. We know that you’ve gotten used to maybe doing a lot more screens than it’s really good for you and we know it’s another adjustment. But in the long term, it’s going to be healthier. So that talk is something, those five points is something that really seemed to be helpful for the kids. Another thing you can do is you can sort of be a role model for your young child and show them how to use screens in a way that is socially healthy and appropriate. So, for example, one of the things you might have heard about is something called sharenting and sharenting is basically when parents share photos or information about their children on social media and one of the things we try to teach kids is, you know, sometimes when you post a photo of another person, you may think the photo is really cute or you may think the photo is really funny, but they may find the photo really embarrassing or even, you know, humiliating and be really upset by it. So it’s really important to teach kids to ask people before you post photos of them. So one of the things you can do as a parent is say to your child, hey, I took this really cute photo of you at Christmas, is it okay if I send it to granny and Grandpa? Is that okay? And by doing that, you’re sort of modeling for your child how to ask somebody. Another thing you can do with your kids that can help them use screens in a safer and healthier way is show them how you don’t ignore life for the screen, how you put the screen down when things are going on. Now, when you’re raising kids, especially really little kids, there are lots of times when it’s pretty, pretty boring and it’s really easy to just pull out your phone and do things. I am very sympathetic with that. I have three kids myself, and I totally understand it. But having said that, I do think that it’s important to show your kids that there are times when it’s really important to put your device away and to engage with somebody. Remember that relationships with another person, intimacy requires focus and attention. And you really can’t do that when you’re looking at your device. So put the device down and pay attention to your child and by doing that, you’re modeling for them a healthy way to use screens. Another thing you might want to do is really talk to your kids about how social media distorts things. And, you know, the idea that people make themselves look good in certain ways or they make themselves look like they’re, you know, trying to appear in a certain way. And all of that is important. Don’t go mobbing when you need support. That’s another thing you can model for your kids. When you do need help or support from other parents, talk to them instead of going online to talk about other people behind their backs. And of course, if cyberbullying happens, by all means, show your child how to report it. Coordinate with other parents and really push the face to face time. Try to set it up and give your kids time with other kids and absolutely be supportive. I know you all know this, and I’m just reminding you of something you already know. Finally, you know, really think about having family time without social media. It’s incredibly, incredibly important. You can go on a hike, you can play a board game, whatever it is you want that’s helpful. We have a lot of resources for children in this age group, and I want to really encourage you to take advantage of them. We really spent the pandemic focused on this particular age group. So there’s lots of resources that we have. And also, you can contact me if you have any questions. I have to apologize to the audience because I can’t stay for the duration of this webinar. But I wanted to give you my contact information. So if you really, if you have a question or anything like that, I will be happy to take it.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Thank you so much, Elizabeth.

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Absolutely!

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] So, you hit on so many good points, but we do have a question from the audience. 

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Sure. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] About monitoring content. 

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Okay. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] You gave a lot of things to do with your children, and I’d love to follow up on some of those. But how do you, what do you recommend for parents to monitor or keep track of children’s use of technology and how much they’re using and how much should they be doing? Do you have any specific recommendations to keep them safe? 

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Sure. Absolutely. So there are lots of different technological resources that you can use to monitor children. And lots of them nowadays are built in, so, for example, if your child has an iPhone, there are all kinds of parental monitoring devices you can use. You can get parental monitoring software, for example, that limits the amount of time your child has on a device or one that limits where they can go on the Internet or one that allows you to get notices. But one of the things about technology that you have to remember is that most of the time when you’re warned about problems your kids are getting into online, it’s happening after the fact. And furthermore, kids are pretty good at circumventing monitors when they want to. So what I really encourage parents to do is monitor, if you like, but I really think the most important thing is to talk with your children and talk with them about what they’re doing and what’s going on in their lives and keep those conversations going because if you have a child who’s determined to evade your monitoring, they’re going to be able to do it. And while it’s helpful and useful and handy and definitely a tool in everybody’s toolbox, I don’t think we can rely on it by itself. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] I totally agree. Can you also just clarify for me as an audience member, I was, I don’t know what the word mobbing means and I wonder if others didn’t.

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Yes, mobbing is when people get together online and they form social media groups to essentially attack or degrade somebody who they’re upset with. So, for example, imagine you live in a small town and there’s a local police officer who you don’t like because you get lots of speeding tickets. Then you get together with other people on social media and you say, can you believe Officer Jones? So unfair! And everybody sort of riles each other up. It happens sometimes with politicians, it happens with educators. It could be a teacher in your child’s school, you know, it could be another parent. But it’s a really dysfunctional way to gain support. And if you’re feeling upset with somebody, I really think the thing to do is to talk with parents offline, see what they think and, you know, sort of pursue more constructive ways to help people change rather than to go on social media and cut people down, which is something you don’t want your children doing to their peers and something that you you know, you really don’t want to model. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Right. So that’s the theme. Stay offline and role model that for your children. Thank you so much. 

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Or role model when you’re online, not just when you’re offline and stay offline when you’re mobbing. Yes, absolutely. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Sounds great. Okay. We do need to move on. I’m sorry you can’t stick around for the whole event, but thank you for popping in when you were able to.

 

[Dr. Elizabeth Englander] Thank you for having me. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Have a great rest of your day. And now I’m going to move on to Dr. Victor Strasburger, who is the founding chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and a distinguished professor of pediatrics emeritus at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He has authored more than 200 articles and papers and 14 books on the subjects of adolescent medicine and the effects of television on children and adolescents. So welcome, Dr. Strasburger. 

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] Thanks. Pleasure to be here. I should tell the audience that I actually wrote, helped to write, the two hour rule for the American Academy of Pediatrics, that kids should spend less than 2 hours a day with entertainment screen time, and we’ll talk about that more in a second. Here is my email address, if you have further questions, I’m happy to hear from people with, I get some really amazing questions. So pediatricians have been at this for a long time. The American Academy of Pediatrics, back in the early 1980s, started studying effects of television on children. Whenever I talk about this people think I’m running for political office because this is really public health 101. And you need politicians as we’ve seen to implement your public health policies. The pandemic, as Elizabeth talked about, has changed everything when it comes to media. I mean all bets have been off in terms of media time total media time. But we know that the pandemic has had effects on the amount of time people spend mental health in young children and obesity. The amount of time has increased. It is unavoidable. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it. All of us, even adults, have probably spent much more time with media during the pandemic. Mental health wise, there are several studies documenting problems with mental health. This is a national survey from Children’s Hospital in Chicago showing that parents have really been quite worried. And in fact, emergency room visits have increased dramatically, even for younger children. More so for adolescents. And what, as Elizabeth talked about, what we’ve all been worried about is social isolation and socializing, legitimate concerns. We hope now things are better. Even before the pandemic, parents were extremely worried about social media. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that. Younger children want to emulate teenagers. And so we see more and more younger children entering social media, perhaps when they shouldn’t be using social media. And for teenagers, at least, TikTok is, and Instagram are both overtaking Facebook. So you can expect for younger children, there are no studies yet, but they’ll be coming. And for younger children, the same thing will be happening. Parents are worried about too much time spent, unable to control social media and the fact that kids are very media savvy and can get around anything that we try to do. If you ask a group of parents, when’s a good time to start using social media? The answer that you typically get is age 12 or older. The American Academy of Pediatrics has yet to issue a policy statement about this because they feel that there just is insufficient information to to justify a recommendation. So this is just kind of anecdotal. Here are the concerns in a nutshell with social media. 

 

[Video plays] There has been a gigantic increase in depression and anxiety for American teenagers, which began right around between 2011 and 2013. The number of teenage girls out of 100,000 in this country who are admitted to a hospital every year because they cut themselves or otherwise harmed themselves. That number was pretty stable until around 2010, 2011. And then it begins going way up. It’s up 62% for older teen girls. It’s up 189% for the pre-teen girls. That’s nearly triple. Even more horrifying, we see the same pattern with suicide. The older teen girls, 15 to 19 years old, they’re up 70% compared to the first decade of the century. The pre-teen girls who have very low rates to begin with, they are up 151%. And that pattern points to social media Gen Z, the kids born after 1996 or so. Those kids are the first generation in history that got on social media in middle school. How do they spend their time? They come home from school and they’re on their devices.

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] So what they don’t talk about there is the positive aspects of social media, particularly for LGBTQ kids, for kids with chronic illness, it extends their support, their support group, their family, in a sense. So there are positives. And what I tell parents is social media, like traditional media, there are good media, there are bad media, there are horrible media, and there are extremely good media. Media, if you’re talking about public broadcasting, for example. So social media are exactly the same. So, here is where that two hour rule came from. If you control for every known factor of obesity, screen time plays a tremendous role. It is an incredibly important factor in one of the causes of early childhood, later childhood, adolescent obesity I want to talk for a second about traditional media, because kids are simply using alternative devices to access traditional media and media to tell a story are really and in some ways more effective and important than even social media. We know, for example, that media violence is one factor. But again, one important factor in real life, violence and aggression. We know that kids who see a lot of sexual content on TV are more likely to begin having sexual intercourse earlier. And because we as adults do such a poor job in schools and at home, doing sex education, the media have picked up the slack. So they’ve now become the leading sex educator in America, today. So what do we do about all this? Well, it would be nice if Hollywood accepted some role in this. They do not. They do not. But we can here, here’s a word that has not gotten positive attention, we can immunize kids against harmful media effects by teaching them media literacy. Every other Western country does this except the United States. What the academy recommends is, again, limiting media time as we get beyond the pandemic to the endemic. This will come back into play. Skype is obviously fine for communicating. Discouraging babies from screens, not just TV, but iPads and cell phones. And probably the most important thing, and you need to do this early if you have younger children, don’t let them start a media habit and keep the devices out of their bedrooms. One of the positive things that you may have seen in the last year or two is the media are trying and advertisers are trying to deal with the issue of racism. They are putting in their ads and in their TV programs, mixed races, mixed ethnicities. No one’s really talking about it, but it’s there if you look for it. And I think it will pay big dividends for the next generations of kids. So keep technology out of bedroom. Co-view, and co-view means discussing, not just being in the same room, while you’re watching something. Setting rules about media and start early. As Elizabeth said, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube. For those of you who still think media don’t have very much influence or effect, this is a public service announcement, it’s one of my favorite videos.

[Video plays, no words]

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] So if this can affect you in 45 seconds, imagine what 3 to 5 hours every day for 18 years does. Kids learn from the media. The only question is what are they learning? Thank you.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Okay. Thanks very much, Vic. That was great. And I did not see that video coming. I didn’t know what was going to get there, but that was powerful. So we do have a question from the audience. The question is if screen use is thought to be like a drug and impacts sort of on a dose response that more is worse. How do you know? How can parents know when screen time is starting to cause damage to kids? 

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] Sure. Well, first of all, screen time isn’t a drug. It can be incredibly pro-social, incredibly powerful.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Great point. 

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] Read Street Gang, the story of Sesame Street, PBS does a remarkable job of pro-social videos. In addition, you can watch something objectionable with your child. And if you’re discussing it, your view takes precedence over what they’re seeing. So I think it’s important not to bash the media. Media are what you make of them. They can be pro-social or not. How do you know there’s a problem? I’ve seen any number of kids who have a fall off in their school performance or who have suddenly gotten aggressive at age six or seven when they weren’t before and they’re playing violent video games. Hello? Take away the violent video games and you’ll have a less aggressive child. The last thing I’ll say is, kids are all different. Some kids are media resistant all on their own. So you may have a child who can tolerate distasteful media, or you may have a child who is very sensitive and only you know, which is which.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Absolutely. Thank you so much for all of those points, including the potential pro-social benefits of screen use. Thank you. Okay. Thank you. You’re hanging around, right?

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] I am. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Okay. Super. So I think I am next, which is weird to introduce myself, but thankfully Arlene already introduced me, so I will just go for it and share my screen. So I only have about 8 minutes to cover this massive topic of the physical effects of screen time on kids.

So. Well, you know, I’ve already heard people say my specialty is sleep, but I’ll also touch on the effects on obesity and vision. I’ll just have a few disclosures. I’m funded by NIH, as well as affiliated with a few other organizations, specifically the National Sleep Foundation, and the Children’s Screens Institute. So let’s talk about sleep. Sleep is so important. And thank you, Elizabeth. If you’re still on for highlighting how powerful sleep is for healthy child development. But what I want to emphasize here is sleep is really one of the three pillars of health and wellbeing along with physical activity and nutrition. And sleep is often not as recognized as it should or could be. We say it’s an under-recognized public health issue. And here are just a range of the relevant consequences that we observe for kids in this age range. First is, in terms of physical health outcomes, we see that sleep deprivation as a deficiency is associated with obesity and weight gain. We see psychological health problems, including increases in depressive symptoms, an increase in suicidality for insufficient sleep especially as kids start to get older. Kids who are not sleeping enough have increased risk taking behavior, whether that means drugs or unsexy, unsafe sexual practices or unsafe driving. And then finally, perhaps this is the biggest concern is that we see cognitive impairment in terms of academic outcomes and even athletic performance. So there are a long list of outcomes that can be affected by poor sleep and we haven’t even got to the effect of screens on sleep health. So let’s go to that now.

Well, there’s first of all, been an emergence of research on this topic. In 2015, my graduate student, Stanford Guan, and I conducted a systematic review and at that point there were about 70 articles on, on this topic. But now there’s at least twice that, probably more and the take-home message is clear that the overwhelming majority of these studies show that in youth screen use, whether it’s during the day or in the hours before bed, have a negative association with a range of sleep outcomes. The ones that are most obvious and probably easiest to measure are sleep onset, which means screenless delays when you’re falling asleep. And it is, it does occur in a dose response. The more screen time you have during the day, the later you go to bed, the more screen time you have at night, the later you go to bed. And because most kids are constrained in their wake up time, if you’re going to bed because of school, start times, frankly, too early school start times, they, if you go to bed later, that cuts into total sleep duration and getting shorter sleep at the end of the night because you’re waking up for school start time cuts into REM sleep and deep sleep, which is really important for learning and memory consolidation. And then there’s also research on poorer sleep quality reported among those who use a lot of screens. I know I don’t have a lot of time, but I’ll just briefly highlight the three mechanisms. The first is time displacement. That’s to say time on your screen is time that you’re not in bed getting ready for bed or doing things that you need to be doing before the day ends. We’ve all had, I have kids, I say it’s time to go upstairs to go to bed. Wait. I have to do my homework. Wait. What were you doing all afternoon? You weren’t doing your homework. You were on screens. That screens are cutting into things that then affect sleep. The second is the arousal from the content. And that means that what kids are watching on their screens, especially if they’re doing it in the hour or so before bed, can be psychologically stimulating and interfere with what’s necessary for the mind to calm down and relax and feel safe and go to sleep. Just as an example, we don’t have a lot of time, but imagine an 11 year old girl logging on to social media and seeing that her friends went bowling without her and didn’t invite her and they were having a great time. It’s perfectly normal and natural to feel distressed about that. That’s a healthy response, but it’s interfering with sleep. And so if she didn’t have that phone, she wasn’t aware of it or learned about it at a different time of day, it might not affect her in the same way. And then finally, the most physiological of mechanisms is about the blue light that is emitted from our screens. And it’s very alerting. Not only does it tell the mind to wake up, but it suppresses melatonin. And melatonin is the hormone that is naturally produced in the evening. It helps her body fall asleep. So if you suppress that melatonin you’re also going to delay sleep onset. So let’s move on. And then there’s one more kind of crazy mechanism that we didn’t realize in 2015 is that the 2019 study from Common Sense Media showed that almost 30% of teens report sleeping with their mobile device in their bed and 36% of teens report waking up more than once, at least once rather, to check their devices. So the fourth mechanism is really these little devices are beeping and bleeping and tweeting and people you know use them for more than just alarm clocks. They set their devices and their devices wake them up and fragment their sleep. So here are the sleep guidelines. The first is families should establish early regular bedtimes and have bedtime routines that include relaxing screen free calming activities that avoid electronic media use and as others have said before, the parents should be role models. Again, as we’ve already said, remove your electronic media from the bedroom charger devices in another room. Don’t use your phones as alarm clocks. There are other ways to wake up. There’s actual alarm clocks that you can buy from a store that works and doesn’t wake you up with messages from your friends. Sleeping spaces should be cool, dark and quiet, and you should be able to have conversations with your children about the importance of sleep for overall health and well-being and also about the negative consequences of bright light and stimuli and content on sleep. So that’s what we have about sleep, on obesity, I have just a few points, but they’re also extremely important. We all know there’s been an obesity academic epidemic in the US over the last 50 or 60 years, with increases in obesity happening in all age groups, particularly older age groups. And this rise in obesity is linked to heavier screen use or media use. And the mechanisms there are two causes at least two causes, sedentary behavior. If you’re sitting and watching television or video gaming, that’s usually sitting behavior and you’re not getting the active, especially outdoor physical activity. And you may also be eating more or snacking more or seeing commercials for for food or things that make you eat more. So that’s the way in which obesity is linked to screen use. Some recommendations to reduce the obesity effects, discourage eating while watching TV or movies and try to make screen time purposeful or intentional, not just having screens be the backup activity. And I know that’s hard, I’m a mom of a seven and a ten year old. And be sure to incorporate other daily activities, outdoor time exercise or games or reading. All of those things are important to counterbalance what we might say is the inevitable screen time during the day. But you got to counterbalance it with things that get kids moving and paying attention. So finally, just a few slides on myopia. Myopia refers to nearsightedness, which has been increasing at an alarming rate, especially during COVID 19. And again, research shows that the more time you spend on screens, there’s an increase in prevalence of myopia. So what should parents do? Again, it’s a lot of the same. Guidelines encourage outdoor time, especially near the middle of the day when the light is bright. Take non screen breaks. If your kids are in remote school, which hopefully they aren’t so much anymore, you got to take a break where you walk away from the screen. Don’t sit too close to your device. Your arm should be at a 90 degree angle, not a V shaped less than 90 degree angle. And then follow this 20, 20, 20 rule. I have to do it with my students too. Every 20 minutes, take a break for 20 seconds and look at something about 20 feet away or more for 20 seconds. Then you can return to your 20 minute activity. So those are our quick guidelines on how to kind of minimize the effects of screen time on the physical health of your kids. Right. Okay. So I have a, I only have a minute or two. I think one question was about blue light blockers. Now the first thing is not all blue light blocking glasses are created equal. If you want the ones that are actually blocking out blue light, you need ones that are amber tinted or orange in color. So keep that in mind. And there is evidence that those types of glasses do block out some of the light, not necessarily all of it, but that is possible. But it doesn’t necessarily reduce eyestrain. So you don’t need to be wearing those glasses or you don’t have to have your kids wearing those glasses all day. And if you recall, if you want to reduce the effects of melatonin suppression, that would just be for wearing at night. But there are other causes of screens affecting sleep, such as time displacement and psychological stimulation. That wearing blue light blocking glasses might not be enough. I think if you must be online at night wearing the blue light blocking glasses may be helpful, but probably the best plan would be to try and keep yourself and your children, your family, off of the devices in the hour before bed. And so, you know, let’s not try to look for a magic bullet of blue light glasses. And there’s also, you know, techniques to try and reduce the brightness of screens, which is good, but it’s hard. There’s mixed evidence on how effective those are the best strategies to try and just put the screens away as you approach bedtime, read a book instead. And then the last question I see coming in is considering the potential health effects, at what age do you think it’s okay for a child to have their own devices? Gosh, that’s a really hard one for for me to give a scientific answer to. But I know there’s some movement to say wait until eight, but it’s also hard because you want your kids to be connected to their peers. This is not something that I have the answer to. The compromise in my family is that my almost 11 year old has an Apple Watch but not a phone, so he can use it for communication, texting, phone calling, but not for surfing the web. So that’s what my family chose to do. As Vick said, you know, your own family and children. So you have to figure out what’s going to work for you. So thanks very much. And I’m going to go back and introduce Brandon. So, Brandon, I’m going to welcome Dr. Brandon McDaniel, who is a research scientist at the Parkview Neuro Center for Research and in Urban Innovation. He’s an adjunct clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine in Fort Wayne and a nationally recognized expert on the impacts of technology use on parenting, children and families. 

 

[Brandon McDaniel] Yes, thank you so much. Very glad to be here. So now I know you’ve already had a whirlwind of information presented to you today, but I was asked to specifically talk a little bit about modeling healthy media behaviors for our children, because that’s really my area, is I work a lot with parents and adults specifically around their media use and what that means for their own families. So I’m here to remind us a bit today, and it’s already happened a little bit and some of the other topics that that it really matters how we use our devices around their children. And it’s going to influence how they manage their and utilize their own technology. We can’t simply pin everything on our children and expect them, you know, their behavior to only come from what’s going on in their lives. But it’s really connected to us in a lot of ways. So we know that our own beliefs about media are going to influence our children like we’ve already heard today. The ways that we talk to them, the way we talk about screens, whether we view different types of screen news positively or negatively. You know, it’s all going to influence how screens get used in our home. But I think what’s more important and what I really want to highlight right now is our own feelings of competence or how efficacious or effective we feel in parenting and understanding. Our children’s screen use has a lot to do with how they’re going to utilize those devices. So if we don’t feel, for example, if I ask you this question of how confident are you that you could say no to your child’s request to participate in more screen time right now or participate in that specific kind of screen time, or on that specific video game, you know, then it’s going to be much more likely that there’s going to be more of that, that you’re going to struggle right with those screen limits and knowing what to do or what it means for you and your family. And so where to start, the take away there is that we need to spend the time figuring out, one, how we feel about these different types of screen media, how we feel about that certain app, how we feel about our children spending that certain amount of time, how we feel about that certain video game and understanding what it really is, what it’s like, what’s involved in it, what’s the content, what’s the context, or like who are they using it with? Really understanding how it fits into our children’s lives and not just coming in with our predetermined notion of what it means because we need to see it through their eyes as well. Maybe it connects really well to their connection to their peer group, you know, but maybe we also, you know, maybe you don’t know exactly what it is they’re doing on that. And that’s a problem. We need to figure that out. So some sites like CommonSenseMedia.org, for example, are a really good place for parents to start, where you can go and type in a specific app or a specific video or show it and figure out what is in that. What’s it mean? How is it used? And they have different guides like that. So that’s a place to start. We also know that one of the largest and strongest predictors of how a child is going to use their media and their devices is how they see their parents using their devices and media. And we’ve already had some examples of that today. So I’m not going to go into it a lot right now. But the more that they see you talking about the way you use your device or see you’re making intentional decisions to turn your device off or those sorts of things, it’s going to influence them. So modeling becomes really, really important to set them up for these healthy habits with their devices. So I have just a funny video to get us started here.

 

[Video plays] Oh, it’s so nice to all be sitting down together. You can tell me something they did today. I drew a horsey. Good for you, son. I started smoking. I love you too, sweetheart. I’m selling bongs out of our minivan. I got a tramp stamp. I’m getting implants. I’m dating your brother. Uh huh. I’m cooking meth in the basement. Great idea, kiddo. That’s why you’re so popular at school.

 

[Brandon McDaniel] All right now that might be a little extreme and really just funny, but that it still communicates a really important point. And that’s this idea that not only should we be modeling good behaviors, but the ways that we utilize our own devices. It’s going to influence our relationships with our children, the connections that we have. So there’s something called technoference, which is technology and interference put together and our devices in the way that they’re designed in terms of notifications and all of that. And the beeps and buzzers and phone calls can cause interruptions, but also the ways that we choose, either consciously or unconsciously, to use our devices around our families can start to influence that time together.

And why should we care about that? Well our children notice. So we’ve got numbers like 28%, so their parents are addicted to their phones. 33% wish their parents would spend less time on their device. 51% feel their parents are distracted by by their phone use during Face-To-Face conversations in 78% saying that technoference decreased by their parents device at least sometimes during their interactions. So they’re noticing these things but again why should we care? Isn’t it usually just something small, it’s really not that influential. What we actually see is that it is. A lot of times it’s linked with things like children feeling worse about their parents, or at least their parent-child relationship. Or they might feel sometimes worse about themselves and their own sense of worth communicating messages like that their their parent views, their device is more important than spending time with them, or at least that one on one time with them. We also see children more likely to engage in their own sorts of problematic media habits. That’s another one of those things that how can we expect them to not want to get on their devices during family time or or homework time or those sorts of things if they see us doing those same sorts of things? And it’s really engaging also, really. So a host of other things like parents, children feeling like their parents are less responsive or they’re being fewer verbal interactions or children acting up or having externalizing and acting out anger and other sorts of frustration. Now, I do want to say, like others have said too that, I know that there are many reasons why you might use your device during a time when you’re around your family or around your children. Parents. Like I said, I work with parents all the time and they’ll talk about needing it to be able to regulate their emotions in the moment and or it helps them to calm down or they need it for support. So you had to reach out to a friend and ask about something that’s bothering them in parenting or for the information that they need or to escape something, or for work. And there’s much, much more. Now, so there are. I understand that. Now, that doesn’t change, though, that we still need to think about how we need to be mindful of it. So some questions you could ask yourself, and I would say you should regularly be asking yourself, why am I getting on the device you know, is it just a strong habit that you’ve formed and you just fill all the times in between things or you get so stressed out during parenting and then you will get on it or what is it, you know, what’s driving you to the device? And then how does it make you feel? As I talk with parents, sometimes the ways that they’re you know, they’ll find some of the ways to use it, utilizing their device, it actually does help them. And they come away feeling better and energized and more ready to take on parenting and other things. They realize it’s really not helping them and it makes them feel worse about themselves, increases their sense of guilt, which we already have so much parenting guilt rolling around you know, or maybe they find it’s supporting them. So, and it’s easy to get stuck in that use in ways that you didn’t mean to. So just understand, it’s a common problem. It’s around us all the time and we all have our devices. And you shouldn’t feel alone in this, but we still need to think carefully about it. And let and like this parent said, what I need is to learn how to use my phone as a tool instead of letting my phone use me. So you might feel guilty and it’s easy to feel guilt about that use. But I want you to know it’s okay. And I want you to be able to work past that and realize there’s both good and bad that can come from our media behaviors. But the more intentional you are, the more intentional decisions you make and the ways that you find to use your device that do actually support you. And you start doing it in those ways, you will be happier as a parent and it’ll help your family, too. So another takeaway here is just to think carefully each day, am I setting that example I want for my children? Are you setting that up? Are you remodeling that? And so I hear that a lot from parents. You know, I want to be a good mom. I don’t want my kids to have memories, like when my mom stayed home with us, but she just stared at her phone all day. Or I want my children to know that they’re the most important thing to me, not my phone. And I would say that many of you feel like that, which is why you’re here today. Another take away something easy usually maybe not always easy, but one of the easiest things to implement is to set up some sort of tech free times or test free zones it’s a bite sized sort of chunk you can do right now is to figure out are there moments during the day or time during the day or specific spaces in your home that you want to be tech free and try to make those sacred spaces are sacred times. Parents often talk about how they enjoy that, they’ve done that, they’re happy that they’ve made those spaces kind of a sacred space, and it helps them to build their relationship with their their children. So again, here’s my email address. If you have any questions for me that you’d like to follow up on, just know that we’re in this together as parents. And take the time to really assess your daily media habits and whether they’re building you up or starting to hinder some of the things that are really important to you. Thank you.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Thank you, Brandon. That was so heartwarming and made me feel better. It was good. It was great. So I have a question from the audience oh, where did it go? Chat, there we go. Here’s our question. And this is relevant to all of us. I just raised my hands, oh, it’s relevant to all of us who worked from home during the pandemic. And our kids saw us and in different ways when we were sitting behind a computer for hours a day. The question is, what if the parents work is on screens all day? They still see us on screens, but they don’t see what we do. How can we be role models in that circumstance?

 

[Brandon McDaniel] Yes, a really great question. I’m on, I’m at home. My bed is right behind me right now, during this. So I’m a perfect example of that. And my children see me do that every day when they come home from school. And so I think it’s just important to have those talks like we’ve already talked about, to explain, yeah, this is what life is like. It’s, and and explain how you manage that to them. You know, explain what it’s like because maybe one day they’ll have a remote job. It’s possible, and they’ll need to learn and see your example of how you manage that. But they also need to know that they’re important. So if my, for example, if your child walks in like, what’s one way that people know that they’re important to you? Eye contact.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Totally. 

 

[Brandon McDaniel] My child walks in and wants to talk to me, even if I’m missing something really important. You know, if I just turn and make eye contact and say, to them like, I’m busy right now, I am working and here’s what I’m doing, I can talk to you in 20 minutes. You know that the fact that I turned and looked straight at them will make a big difference as opposed to just continuing to stare at the screen and ignoring them. That is just one small example. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] That’s great. And you know what happens in my house? My son will come back, my seven year old, will come back and say, It’s been 20 minutes. Why are you still on your screen now? Because I’m not perfect. But yes, yes, I can. You know, I get held to whatever I say, and that’s all right.

 

[Brandon McDaniel] Yes. Yeah, it’s important that we set those examples and then we own up to the fact that we make mistakes, you know, and that we’re not perfect. They need to see us strive and fail and work and get better and set goals around our media use too

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Great. Okay, so now we are moving and thank you for your remarks all, all, all over the whole thing. So we’re moving ahead to the Q&A section, and I’m going to kick it off by revisiting the what I would say is the million dollar question or one of the million dollar questions that was thrown at me which was, what is it okay to give kids their own device? And as I said, I didn’t have a scientific answer for that. So I would love to hear what the experts in the room think Victor, would you like Dr. Strasburger would you like to start this conversation?

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] Not really. There’s no good answer. It depends on your child. It depends on you, may depend on finances. All of us have given cell phones to our kids so that we could talk to them whenever. I mean, it’s a matter of convenience. It’s a matter of safety. Where are you? What are you doing? I think it you know, it’s not a not a very satisfying answer, but it depends. And it’s exactly why the American Academy of Pediatrics has not come out with a recommendation because guess what? We don’t know.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] I hear you. That’s very good. Let’s see what Brandon has to say.

 

[Brandon McDaniel] I could give a follow up. It definitely depends but one way to you know, it’s always up for debate. It definitely depends upon their maturity level. And every child is different. And you knowing what really affects them and not, for example, you can have, you know, two children use social media the same amount of time and even see the same images and one come away being really affected by that. And the other one not, you know, as an example, but there are different kinds of phones. Like, I’m going to go to the phone route for a second, let’s think, because that’s often what the question I get asked is, like, when should I give my child a smartphone? You know, there are different kinds of phones so that’s something important to think about. You know, is it going to be like a little flip phone? Is it going to be the Apple Watch like you were talking about earlier, Lauren? You know, where it’s just like messaging and some phone calls or is it going to be the full on smartphone that has Internet access and and all the bells and whistles? You know, you need to consider what the reasons are behind why you’re giving them that you know, for example, do they just need to be able to contact you after sports or is there something else going on? But where I’d really go here is that, you know, smartphones a supercomputer. There’s never been a time in the history of mankind that we’ve had a device like this that was in our pocket or with us. 24/7, all the time. And then we had all these amazing things that we could do with it. But at the same time, I mean, I work with adults and parents, and I all the time hear them expressing their growing attachment to their device and the concerns that they have over it and the worries and the ways in which they feel like the anxieties they experience or  when they don’t have it with them or their difficulty controlling their use And sometimes the negative emotional effects that they feel social comparisons on social media and lost sleep and it goes on and on and on and on and on. And so what I would say is, as a parent, once you feel ready for your child to be also facing and struggling with those same things that I just mentioned, then go for it. You know, once you’re ready to start working with them on that and modeling that and helping them and really really focusing on those things, then go for it because they’re going to struggle. If adults can’t get it together, just imagine, you know, children an eight year old, a nine year old, a ten year old where they don’t even have the fully developed brain yet to be able to regulate some of those those behaviors. You know, so that that would be one thing I’d say and I’d say, let’s say you’ve already done it or you’re trying to think of what rules to set up. So a couple of recommendations I have heard that I’ve seen work well in some families would be to have phones turned back into the parents by like 8 p.m. every night. I think that gets at what you were saying, Lauren, of trying to limit the screen exposure at night and also makes this where they’re not going to be seeing. They’re frantically trying to check it during the night and affecting their sleep. And maybe you might also decide to have access or to have to know all of their passwords to their phone as well as their different accounts that they have, not because you don’t trust them, but because you want to be able to get on there sometimes and see what’s been happening and be able to do some teaching moments and guiding moments, if that makes sense, so that they understand that you’re you’re there with them like you would be in real life. And you do know more than them, even if they think it’s an invasion of privacy, you know, it’s a hard balance. And so anyway, I could talk forever so that that’s enough of it. 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] It is a hard balance. But I endorse the idea of the turning in of the phones. Granted, my kids aren’t of that age yet. So we haven’t had to do this. But we do have in my household, in our kitchen a charging bed for any types of devices the iPad can charge there. My phone can charge for the Apple Watch charger’s there. And that keeps the phone out of my bedroom, too. And that’s always a role model. I’m not perfect either, as I’ve already mentioned at the phone makes it way up. But if I really want to be good, I keep my phone in the kitchen. So that’s– 

 

[Arlene Pellicane] Hey, Lauren, could I jump in with just two quick things?

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Absolutely. 

 

[Arlene Pellicane] One thing I loved what I told my kids is, you know what, Bill Gates, he knew something about technology and he didn’t give his kids phones until they were 14. So I felt that bought me a lot of time that I would say, you know, Bill Gates he kind of knows about this stuff.

And those kids didn’t even have phones of 14. So we had kind of set that up. Another thing that I had heard was if your child says, you know, oh, I’ll be so good if you give me this phone like I will do, I will listen to your rules, I will obey your limits, you know, you I’ll sign the contract, I’ll do all these things, but you have to see, like, does that child, how are they with their other responsibilities? You know, do they do the laundry? Do they walk the dog? Do they do the homework? Do they do they do all these things without being asked or you having to really ride them about that? So really, you kind of look at the past performance of your child and their personality and not just, of course, what they’re promising in the moment, right?

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Absolutely. So did your children have to show a consistent pattern of doing their chores before they got to their devices? 

 

[Arlene Pellicane] Well, here’s here’s the deal. So and I present this as an option. So we just felt like it’s such a distraction. And like what Brandon was saying, once you have it now you have all these issues to deal with. And we never met a parent that was like, oh, I wish I would have given my girl this phone sooner, it’s amazing for her. Like, we never met anyone like that. We always met people that were like, I wish I would have waited. So we had already made the pre decision not to do it until high school. And then we felt like this is working so well and it has to come out of relationship, it has to come out of you as parents having this relationship with your kids. And so I was senior in high school. I have a sophomore in high school and a seventh grader. They all attend large public schools in San Diego, and none of them have phones. So they have a lot of technology because they’ve got the Chromebook and the iPads, everything that comes from school, you know, so they have technology, but they don’t have personal devices. They use Google voice numbers. My son, the senior, is like captain of the debate team. He’s involved with things. My daughter’s involved in tennis. And you found find workarounds all my daughter has to do is grab her friend’s phone and be like, Mom, we’re running 10 minutes late. It’s not a big deal. So we’ve kind of found those workarounds, but it is definitely different. But I actually had my daughter, who’s a sophomore who just said yesterday, Mom, I’m really glad I don’t have social media just because I see like my friends, they have no time. Like, they waste so much time. So not even like content based or what they’re learning or anything about depression or anxiety. She’s just like, they have no time. And I’m actually glad, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, could you please say that to me again? 

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] What a parenting win! Holy cow! She seems really wonderful and aware, but that that time issue is is huge. We all spend so much time looking down and and it cuts into the other things that we can be doing. So we have another question. What can parents do with a lot of children’s screen time and device access is dictated by school and homework. So as you mentioned, Chromebooks are coming home from the schools. Even my last year, my first grader got got one from the school. So you can’t be a good student and avoid screens at this point. I don’t know. Victor, do you have thoughts on this? How do we incorporate this? 

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] Well, I think it’s part of media literacy. I think it’s part of media education. I think that schools, you know, it’s hard because we’re asking schools to do more and more these days with less and less. But schools need to teach media literacy and part of that is the role of media in your everyday life. And it would be nice if schools limited iPad use and things like that. But unfortunately, because we underfund schools, it’s cheaper to put textbooks on iPad than it is to buy the actual textbooks. I’m one of these people. I mean, I’m old enough that I don’t like reading books on my iPad. I’m sorry, I need the physical book. But schools have gotten away with that because we’re not funding them well enough.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] It’s easier to distribute things that way too, for sure. Right, Brandon? 

 

[Brandon McDaniel] Yeah, I can add to that. So I’ve done some research into that and it was personally based that first I hadn’t thought a lot about it, but then when we moved here to Fort Wayne, Indiana, our kindergartner and I saw that even kindergartners were being given their own Chromebooks and began to wonder what that might cause I’m a family process researcher. I’m like basically a family scientist thinking about what family happens and family interactions. And so in the research, I’ve been able to see the results are really mixed in terms of whether school devices really assist children in terms of learning even inside of a school environment. Sometimes there might be an improvement in test scores. A lot of times there’s not. It’s it’s very mixed. It almost seems like a lot of times it’s getting on more just because of the hype of seeming like it’s the thing to do now. And everyone should have a device from an early age. But what I see in the home as I surveyed parents is that there were increases in conflict around technology. They didn’t know what to do with the devices. They didn’t children were using them in ways that, you know, schools aren’t I mean, they’re probably thinking about, but they’re not helping parents to know how to manage that in terms of getting on YouTube and like instead of learning, they’re watching YouTube videos about Minecraft and the video games that they like and like those sorts of things and finding ways to play games. And basically what I was finding is that it was stressing families out in a lot of ways. And maybe that’s what parents feel here on the call, too, and that they they really desire, like Victor was saying, more training from the schools in terms of knowing how do you manage that device? How do you make this something that is actually effective for my child in the home as a learning tool, as a learning device, or how do I manage the fact of playing off, letting them do a little bit entertainment, but doing mostly learning and all that it’s it’s a real struggle and schools if they’re going to hand out free devices to to children starting as young as a kindergartner who, by the way, you know, as I would say, is not one, you should be having their own personal device they’re going to have to give more training to parents. So as parents, we need to fight for that. You know, if the schools don’t hear from us as a united group saying we need this, it’s not going to happen.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Right. So we’re going to wrap it up soon. But I just wanted to hear from anybody. If you have specific recommendations or software or apps that can help protect children, from, you know, searches or stumbling upon mature content or anything they might not be needing to see or shouldn’t be seeing, do you have any recommendations there? I haven’t been using those. So I’m I’m eager to learn, if you have.

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] I think the single best source of information besides the American Academy of Pediatrics, little plug there. And Brandon mentioned this Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media rates, every medium you can think of and rates it in a way that all of our ratings should be. It gives you qualitative information about the movie, the TV show, the video game. I just love them to pieces.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] That’s a great tip. Common Sense Media. And what about any apps or software Brandon do you know, anything? Or maybe Arleen knows something?

 

[Brandon McDaniel] I was going to say. I mean, I definitely recommend Common Sense Media, you know, even as a scientist, I use that with my own family figuring out, okay, you know, we want we see this new movie pop up on Netflix and we’re thinking it looks really good. But then I’m like, would it be okay for my seven year old, you know? And then you figure out, you use it and you can make your own decisions. You don’t have to just trust what they said, but you can go through and rate it in terms of violence and content and all these things. And you can decide, okay, I know that these kinds of things affect my kid in this way, and they have nightmares about blah, blah, blah, you know? So then I know that this is not going to be good for them. So it’s about knowing your kid. It’s about using Common Sense Media. It’s about, you know, using those sources. I mean, one app I have heard that has worked well for some families is the Bark app. So Bark, B-A-R-K,  it allows them to connect to their children’s, I think, devices as well as various like social media accounts and, and to get notifications when their child’s been exposed to different things. So maybe they will know or at least need to have this conversation with them about like, what do we do when we see pornography or what do we do, you know, when we see this sort of bullying going on, you know, and that that sort of stuff.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Okay. A great tip.

 

[Arlene Pellicane] I was going to also mention Bark and then I had a friend who she really likes using circle and then the GAB wireless phone is like if you’re not ready for that smartphone, that, that gab wireless is it is also a great solution that just so you can call your child.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Okay, great. So let’s have everybody go through with the one tip. I’ll kick it off because everybody knows what mine is going to be which is charger phones or devices in another room at bedtime. And, you know, don’t look at them for a minimum of half hour, ideally an hour before bedtime. That’s my tip instituted in your if implemented in your family for yourself and for your kids. What do you recommend, Victor? 

 

[Dr. Victor Strasburger] My tip is co-view everything. So if your kid wants to play a first person shooter video game, play with them and talk about why you object to that sort of game, you’ve got to talk. If you co-view you it’s not just sitting in the same room. It’s discussing.

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Sounds great. Okay, Brandon.

 

[Brandon McDaniel] I’d say spending time thinking very carefully about your own media use and your own media behaviors. Asking yourselves those important questions of how am I utilizing my device when I’m around my family? Is it supporting me? What are they seeing in my teaching them the things that that I value?

 

[Dr. Lauren Hale] Wonderful. And Arlene, you I’m going to hand it over to you and wrap up the morning. And I’d love you to give us your takeaways because you’re an expert, parent, parent and podcaster. So I’m going to sign off and hand it over to Arlene. 

 

[Arlene Pellicane] Thank you, Lauren. You’ve done such an amazing job being a moderator and a presenter. And I think my tip is pre-decide. Like while your kids are young. This is when you can pre-decide this is what I want. And I really like that point that Elizabeth made about we tend to stress safety, but it’s you look at it like if one out of two of these users is going to struggle with depression and anxiety, like what I get on an airplane, if they told me, 50% of you are going to leave this airplane and struggle with anxiety, would I be like, oh, great, I’m going to get on the airplane. So really think about it. Like, do we want to board this airplane that all these kids are on? And we think, Oh, this is great. It must be okay because everyone else is on it. You can live different and think different. Asked different questions for family. So I don’t want to give you permission to be different. That it is okay. If your kids are different, they will still make friends and they will make it because I know that’s our fear. Well, I just want to thank you everyone so much for joining Lauren. Elizabeth, Vic, and Brandon, thank you for taking the time. It’s so valuable, your expertise to be with us today to share so much advice for us parents and for other stakeholders. We want to thank you and our Zoom audience as well for joining us and for submitting your thoughtful questions. When you leave this webinar, you will be asked to complete a short survey. So if you have a moment to let us know what you think about the webinar, share your ideas for new topics to explore. That is always so helpful. And if you’d like to learn more, you can find many tips for parents and other resources on the Institute’s website at ChildrenandScreens.com. So be sure to share this with your friends who are struggling with screens and their families. It’s so valuable. You will also receive a link to the Children and Screens YouTube channel tomorrow where you can view all the previous webinars and review today’s discussion and a few days. You can also follow this, I call this a digital vegetable because it’s for learning, you can follow Children and Screens on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at the accounts shown here. We hope you will join us again on Wednesday, March 9th! Mark your calendar for the final installment of our Ages and Stages series, 12 to 18 Coming of Age Online. Thanks again for joining us today. Be well and have a wonderful week.