Initiatives to Help You Moderate or Delay Kid Tech Use

Initiatives to Help You Moderate or Delay Kid Tech Use

By Kate Ashford

 

Smartphone use is now a fact of life for kids. Ninety-five percent of teens ages 13 to 17 say they have a smartphone or access to one, according to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, and 45% report being online “almost constantly.” The most popular online platforms: YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

In a 2017 Nielsen report, 45% of kids got a smartphone with a service plan at 10 to 12 years old. If you’re trying to moderate your child’s smartphone use or keep them from having a smartphone altogether, it can feel like you’re swimming against the tide. But there are a number of initiatives that have popped up to help you try.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s out there:

WAIT UNTIL 8TH
What is it? It’s a pledge encouraging parents to band together in a promise not to give their children smartphones until at least 8th grade.

Background: One day Brooke Shannon, the founder of Wait Until 8th, was driving past her local middle school and noticed something. “All the kids were getting out of school, and instead of interacting with each other, they were walking and looking at their smartphones,” she says. “My oldest was in third grade, and as a mom, I was discouraged that this was the road ahead.” She emailed a group of parents from her daughter’s third grade class and started a dialog. As it turns out, everyone wanted to wait as long as possible to give their kids smartphones.

“It just takes two or three kids in your kid’s class who come in with a phone,” Shannon says. “And then other kids start getting them. You don’t want your child to be the one left out of social situations. As a group of parents, we just decided, let’s not do it until a certain point.” Shannon does recognize that there are some situations that require being able to get in touch, and her group recommends a basic flip phone if parents must buy something.

It was intended to be a local initiative, but Shannon built a quick website and word started to spread. Now the initiative can be found in communities in every state. “I think it resonates with parents because there wasn’t a tangible tool out there to help you navigate this issue,” Shannon says.

What can you do? You can take the pledge yourself on WaitUntil8th.org and use the site’s resources to spread the word in your own community.

CONCORD PROMISE
What is it? This is also an initiative to encourage parents to wait until at least 8th grade to purchase a smartphone for their kids.

Background: Adrienne Principe, the co-founder of Concord Promise, spent some time as the co-chair of the wellness committee at her children’s elementary school, and there was much discussion about all the anxiety they were seeing in kids there. “We had seen Screenagers, and there were a lot of articles being published,” Principe says. “I looked at all the information and spoke to the two moms I cofounded the organization with, and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it. We thought, ‘What can we do to really have an impact?’”

Talking with other parents, they realized that delaying smartphone ownership wasn’t enough. “Parents are really looking for community support,” Principe says. “They want to be able to talk to each other about the challenges they’re facing. They want access to resources and events and this idea of partnership became very important.”

The site has partnered with psychologists and researchers who are studying technology to provide resources for parents who want to know more about it. Slowly, other towns have launched their own Promises using the resources available on Concord Promise’s site.

What can you do? You can make your own promise at Concord Promise and start a group for your community using the site’s suggestions and resources.

AWAY FOR THE DAY
What is it? This is an initiative focusing on encouraging middle schools to change their policies to require phones to be off and away during the school day. The website offers educational resources, testimonials from people who’ve done it, and advice on advocating for policy change in your own community. The information can also be used to encourage high schools to do the same thing.

Background: Lisa Tabb, the co-founder of the Away for the Day movement, is also the co-producer of the film Screenagers. Her team did a national survey of parental preferences and found that 82% of parents of middle school students don’t want their kids to have access to cell phones at school, while 56% of middle schools allow students to carry their phones all day. “We saw that there was this moment to push back,” she says.

Everything on the website is useful for all grades and all schools, Tabb says. And when the team put out a query in a recent Tech Talk for schools that had recently changed their policies, they got 45 responses—almost half of which were high schools. Tabb herself was involved in implementing changes to the smartphone policy in her daughter’s high school. “That took a year,” she says. “It needs to be a unified force for kids to get it and for teachers to feel supported.”

What can you do? Visit AwayfortheDay.org to read more about the initiative and what you can do to help push smartphone changes in your own schools.

HOLD THAT TEXT
What is it? It’s an idea: Parents should hold texts for their kids until after school hours, rather than texting them throughout the day as things occur to them.

Background: This is not so much a movement as a suggestion during a Screenagers Tech Talk Tuesday that’s gained some traction. “We feel like it’s an important part of all this, as parents, to be thinking about when we’re texting our kids during the day,” Tabb says. “Do we really need to? And we’re creating a reason for them to have to respond or check.”

What can you do? Consider whether that text you’re sending at 11 a.m. is urgent or whether you can send it at 3 p.m. instead—or whenever your student is out of school. If you’re worried you’ll forget, make a note in your phone and set an alarm for yourself. Need motivation? Note that test scores are 10.6% lower among students regularly interrupted by texts. Talk to other parents in your community to spread the word.

 

Cigarette vs. E-Cigarette Ads…Then & Now

Cigarette vs. E-Cigarette Ads…Then & Now

Ask any teenager today, and most would say cigarette smoking is disgusting. Without hesitation. Society has done a good job of educating our young people about the dangers of cigarette smoke and tobacco. However, the same is not true if you ask them about e-cigarettes, which still have nicotine in them with the same addictive properties nicotine has always had, only in much higher concentration levels than regular cigarettes. Perhaps, the potential to become addicted to nicotine does not have the same effect on a young person’s behavior as the image of what tobacco can do to your lungs. And advertisers are capitalizing on this very notion….almost in the exact same way as they did decades ago. Check out these pictures of ads from then and now. Let’s share them with our kids and talk about the role of advertisement and business in influencing decision making.

How Real People Regulate Their Families’ Tech Usage

How Real People Regulate Their Families’ Tech Usage

By Kate Ashford

It’s one thing to talk about how much time everyone spends on screens and smartphones—but it’s another to actually put a plan in place to regulate it.

But a plan is helpful. More than half of teens report that they spend too much time on their cellphones, according to the Pew Research Center, and 36% of their parents say they do, also. Seventy-two percent of teens check their phones for messages as soon as they wake up (and 57% of parents), and 51% of teens feel their parent is distracted by their phone when having in-person conversations. (Seventy-two percent of parents feel their teens are distracted.)

So what are people doing in their own homes to control tech usage? It’s not an easy answer. “I honestly don’t feel like I do a very good job at it,” says one Pelham mom, who preferred not to use her name. “And it almost seems like tempting fate to say you have a handle on it.”

Here are some strategies that some local families have put in place:

Charge phones out of the bedroom. “From the very beginning, my kids had to plug in their phones in the kitchen every night—no phones in their rooms overnight. My husband and I do the same.” –Eileen Miller, parent to kids ages 17 and 15

“Phones are charged downstairs for the night. We adults follow the same rules!” –Silmara Sucena, parent to kids ages 17, 15, 11, 7 and 4

“I ask daughter nightly to leave her phone downstairs. By 8:30 approximately each night we all go to our rooms to read real books. Once it is a routine, it is easy.” –Aimee Kaplan, parent to kids ages 12, 9.75 and 7

Ditch the phone during family time. “We usually try to show them, by putting phones—ours included—screen down on the table when we are having dinner or out at a restaurant. We try not to take their phones away. We’ve learned to ‘show, not tell’ them how to prioritize people over phones.” –Tara Lyons, parent to kids 14, 12 and 10

“I put the phones over the kitchen sink while doing homework. This is usually successful unless they need to use them for the task, and this it is distractive. All kids put their phones in the hallway by 9:30.” –Karen Green, parent to kids ages 14, 11 and 8

“I make sure no one is on any electronics during food times. Even if the kids are just eating a bowl of cereal at the counter and I’m making lunches, no electronics are allowed. I’m also careful to say things like, ‘Put the games away so we can just be together.’ It’s those seemingly empty moments that leave room for them to talk about whatever—be it important or weird preteen stuff.” –Rachel Adams, parent to kids ages 11, 6, and 6 months

Use tech tools to limit usage. “We utilize tools through Verizon to control what times certain devices no longer have access to the Wi-Fi in the evening as one way to ensure that they stop using them after a certain time.” – Nichole Otondi, parent to kids ages 14, 12 and 8

“My husband has installed Our Pact or Screen Time on my kids’ phones. It allows him to limit their access to any app that has been downloaded onto their phones. He limits them to an hour a day, after which the apps disappear from their phones and they need to ask his permission to get more time.” –Elaine Chang, parent to kids nearly 17, 14, and 12.5

Make open access the rule. “We are pretty careful in middle school at looking at their feeds, and it’s a rule that we are allowed to look at their phone at any time for any reason.” –Anonymous

“[My 11-year-old] knows I read his texts whenever the urge strikes, and we talk through some of what I see, and sometimes he brings something to me that he wants to talk about. It’s led to some great conversations that I’m not sure would have surfaced otherwise.” –Erin Blakeley Ginsburg, parent to kids ages 11, 9 and 6

Limit certain apps or phone access until kids are older. “We didn’t allow SnapChat until high school.” –Anonymous

“No one in my house got a smartphone before high school. And we talked a lot about etiquette before they got the technology. There were very few downsides to waiting that long.” –Laura Barge O’Sullivan, parent to kids ages 16 and 14

Limit device access in general. “No phones at the dinner table or during family discussions, and absolutely no technology or television in the bedrooms ever.” –Jen Silvester, parent to kids ages 11 and 8

“I take [my teens’] phones away almost every evening so they can get their school work and chores done.” – Jo Ann Santana-Sannella, parent to kids ages 19 and 16

“Our rules is no phones on the second floor. Or third. So, in theory, all the bedrooms are phone free. The only devices allowed are Chromebooks.” –Kara McLoughlin, parent to kids ages 15 and 14

“Where we have to have a continual dialogue is the Xbox. We do have limits where [our 13-year-old] has to earn the privilege measured through his grades. It is truly a daily/weekly conversation as that is a motivator for him. Most school nights, he is not allowed unless he has earned it and his work is done.” –Colleen Maiberger, parent to kids ages 13, 11 and 4

Talk often about devices and social media in general. “My most useful tool is to talk to them about the downside to social media. I often ask if they think their lives are better for it, [and] almost always they say no. They do know that it adds stress, adds a feeling of missing out, adds opportunities, to be misread, etc.” –Michele Anderson, parent to kids ages 16 and 14

“I’ve shared info I’ve seen about screen time and health issues with [my 13-year-old.] She seems to get it. Sometimes she lectures us about our own usage.” –Kim Jaimes, parent to kids age 18 and 13

Teens who vape or use hookah are more likely to use marijuana later, study finds

Teens who vape or use hookah are more likely to use marijuana later, study finds

There are Pelham teens vaping in our high school and middle school. When our kids roll their eyes at our warnings, we better have some facts, figures, and details to impress upon them the possible consequences of their decision to vape. We don’t yet have the luxury of 30 years-worth of research, but more and more studies like this one point out the dangers.

CNN Article to Journal of Pediatrics Study

Disconnect to Reconnect: How Real People (in Pelham) Regulate Their Families’ Tech Usage

Disconnect to Reconnect: How Real People (in Pelham) Regulate Their Families’ Tech Usage

By Kate Ashford

It’s one thing to talk about how much time everyone spends on screens and smartphones—but it’s another to actually put a plan in place to regulate it.

But a plan is helpful. More than half of teens report that they spend too much time on their cellphones, according to the Pew Research Center, and 36% of their parents say they do, also. Seventy-two percent of teens check their phones for messages as soon as they wake up (and 57% of parents), and 51% of teens feel their parent is distracted by their phone when having in-person conversations. (Seventy-two percent of parents feel their teens are distracted.)

So what are people doing in their own homes to control tech usage? It’s not an easy answer. “I honestly don’t feel like I do a very good job at it,” says one Pelham mom, who preferred not to use her name. “And it almost seems like tempting fate to say you have a handle on it.”

Here are some strategies that some local families have put in place:

Charge phones out of the bedroom. “From the very beginning, my kids had to plug in their phones in the kitchen every night—no phones in their rooms overnight. My husband and I do the same.” –Eileen Miller, parent to kids ages 17 and 15

“Phones are charged downstairs for the night. We adults follow the same rules!” –Silmara Sucena, parent to kids ages 17, 15, 11, 7 and 4

I ask daughter nightly to leave her phone downstairs. By 8:30 approximately each night we all go to our rooms to read real books. Once it is a routine, it is easy.”–Aimee Kaplan, parent to kids ages 12, 9.75 and 7

Ditch the phone during family time. “We usually try to show them, by putting phones—ours included—screen down on the table when we are having dinner or out at a restaurant. We try not to take their phones away. We’ve learned to ‘show, not tell’ them how to prioritize people over phones.” –Tara Lyons, parent to kids 14, 12 and 10

“I put the phones over the kitchen sink while doing homework. This is usually successful unless they need to use them for the task, and this it is distractive. All kids put their phones in the hallway by 9:30.” –Karen Green, parent to kids ages 14, 11 and 8

“I make sure no one is on any electronics during food times. Even if the kids are just eating a bowl of cereal at the counter and I’m making lunches, no electronics are allowed. I’m also careful to say things like, ‘Put the games away so we can just be together.’ It’s those seemingly empty moments that leave room for them to talk about whatever—be it important or weird preteen stuff.” –Rachel Adams, parent to kids ages 11, 6, and 6 months

Use tech tools to limit usage. “We utilize tools through Verizon to control what times certain devices no longer have access to the Wi-Fi in the evening as one way to ensure that they stop using them after a certain time.” – Nichole Otondi, parent to kids ages 14, 12 and 8

“My husband has installed Our Pact or Screen Time on my kids’ phones. It allows him to limit their access to any app that has been downloaded onto their phones. He limits them to an hour a day, after which the apps disappear from their phones and they need to ask his permission to get more time.” –Elaine Chang, parent to kids nearly 17, 14, and 12.5

Make open access the rule. “We are pretty careful in middle school at looking at their feeds, and it’s a rule that we are allowed to look at their phone at any time for any reason.” –Anonymous

“[My 11-year-old] knows I read his texts whenever the urge strikes, and we talk through some of what I see, and sometimes he brings something to me that he wants to talk about. It’s led to some great conversations that I’m not sure would have surfaced otherwise.” –Erin Blakeley Ginsburg, parent to kids ages 11, 9 and 6

Limit certain apps or phone access until kids are older. “We didn’t allow SnapChat until high school.” –Anonymous

“No one in my house got a smartphone before high school. And we talked a lot about etiquette before they got the technology. There were very few downsides to waiting that long.” –Laura Barge O’Sullivan, parent to kids ages 16 and 14

Limit device access in general. “No phones at the dinner table or during family discussions, and absolutely no technology or television in the bedrooms ever.” –Jen Silvester, parent to kids ages 11 and 8

“I take [my teens’] phones away almost every evening so they can get their school work and chores done.” – Jo Ann Santana-Sannella, parent to kids ages 19 and 16

“Our rules is no phones on the second floor. Or third. So, in theory, all the bedrooms are phone free. The only devices allowed are Chromebooks.” –Kara McLoughlin, parent to kids ages 15 and 14

“Where we have to have a continual dialogue is the Xbox. We do have limits where [our 13-year-old] has to earn the privilege measured through his grades. It is truly a daily/weekly conversation as that is a motivator for him. Most school nights, he is not allowed unless he has earned it and his work is done.” –Colleen Maiberger, parent to kids ages 13, 11 and 4

Talk often about devices and social media in general. “My most useful tool is to talk to them about the downside to social media. I often ask if they think their lives are better for it, [and] almost always they say no. They do know that it adds stress, adds a feeling of missing out, adds opportunities, to be misread, etc.” –Michele Anderson, parent to kids ages 16 and 14

“I’ve shared info I’ve seen about screen time and health issues with [my 13-year-old.] She seems to get it. Sometimes she lectures us about our own usage.” –Kim Jaimes, parent to kids age 18 and 13

LIKE, the Movie, the Panel, and Tools to Self-Regulate

LIKE, the Movie, the Panel, and Tools to Self-Regulate

 

On October 18th at The Picture House Regional Film Center, Pelham Together hosted a film screening of LIKE, a documentary that explores the impact of social media in our lives—adults and children alike. The goal of the film is to inspire all of us to self-regulate, strive for healthy balance, and give us some tools to do so. Following the film, Pelham Together Executive Director Laura Caruso led a panel discussion among experts and Pelham students who shared their perspectives on this topic with an audience of 150 residents, parents, students, and staff from our schools and District.

The following article by Kate Ashford pulls many of the suggestions from the film and more into a fabulous list of tools to equip us to self-regulate our use of technology in pursuit of a healthy balance!

Special thanks to our panelists for their time and contribution—Dr. Mark Bertin, Dr. Katherine Harding, Mr. Scott Brown, Nora Tahbaz (PMHS senior), and Quincy Stern (PMS student). If you were unable to attend, please check pelhamtogether.org for a video of the panel discussion.

11 Things You Can Do to Self-Regulate Your Technology Usage

By Kate Ashford

Screen time—and people’s dependence on technology—is a popular topic, and for good reason. American adults spend an average of three hours and 35 minutes every day on mobile devices, according to eMarketer, and they average about 2,617 daily touches—including touching, tapping, swiping and clicking.

All that time on technology isn’t doing people any favors. Using several social media platforms has been found to lead to more depression and anxiety. Smartphone use may result in lower quality sleep. And smartphone addiction can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, research has found.

But in an era when people’s smartphones have become what they feel is a necessity, how do you decrease how much time you’re spending with your devices? Here are a few strategies for reclaiming your non-smartphone life:

Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock. Many people use their smartphones to wake them in the morning, which means that when you turn off your alarm, you’re immediately faced with all the notifications and messages you missed overnight. Boom—you start the day on your phone. Try charging your phone somewhere else in the house and use a regular alarm clock to rouse you. You’ll start the day with your own thoughts instead.

Carry a book. If you look at your phone whenever you have five free minutes, consider carrying a Kindle or a paperback book with you. When you’re standing in line or waiting for a friend to meet you for dinner, you don’t have to scroll Facebook to fill your time—you can get to that book you’ve been meaning to read. If you aren’t a reader, consider taking up knitting.

Make a social media appointment. If you can’t make it through the day without constantly checking your social media apps, make it deliberate: Set aside 30 to 60 minutes a day (or however long makes sense in your schedule) when you’re free to scroll, like and comment to your heart’s content. Experience no guilt, because it’s planned social media time. But when your appointment is over, put the phone down and move on to other things. Experts call this “batching”—grouping your social media activity together instead of checking every 10 minutes. Knowing you’ve got that time built into your schedule might make it easier to ignore the social media pull at other times of day.

Make your phone less enticing. In terms of allure, your smartphone works a lot like a slot machine—every time you pick it up, there’s a chance of a reward in the form of a like or a new message or another notification. Each “win” gives you a hit of dopamine, which creates a feedback loop that keeps you coming back to your phone. There are a variety of ways to fight back, such as disabling the notifications on the apps that are drawing you in (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat). The fewer little red bubbles you see, the less you’ll feel the need to open your apps to clear them. You can also turn your phone’s screen to grayscale, which makes it less eyecatching. You can find directions for how to do this here.

Watch TV on TV. You’re less likely to watch four straight episodes of The Crown if you have to watch on your couch in the living room, rather than on your smartphone in bed. You also won’t have to stop watching your show to check the text message you just received. Put your phone in another room and keep your big screen pursuits on the bigger screen.

Make a call instead of texting. If what you’re trying to accomplish—setting up a dinner with friends, rehashing some family drama—is going to take more than a few back-and-forth texts, just pick up the phone and call. You’ll benefit from hearing your friend’s tone of voice, make a real human connection and potentially accomplish more in less time—allowing you to return to whatever you were supposed to be doing in the first place.

Hide your phone. Part of the issue with smartphones is that people often keep them within easy reach—in their pockets or next to their work computer, for instance. That’s like keeping Doritos in your car when you’re on a diet. Stash your phone in a drawer when you’re at work. If it isn’t in your hand all the time, it’s harder to check it out of habit.

Put your phone to bed. Consider how much time you spend scrolling through social media apps before you go to sleep at night. What if you put your phone to bed at 9 pm or 10 pm and spent the rest of your evening relaxing and doing other things? (Talking to your spouse or roommate, reading, or even watching a TV show with your family?) The good news: Since blue light before bed can suppress melatonin, limiting your smartphone use in the evening hours might net you some more quality shut-eye.

Use technology to make you more mindful. There are a variety of apps that may be able to help you modify—or at least be more conscious of—how much time you’re spending on your phone. They have their limitations, but one of them might work for you. There are apps like Hold, which rewards you for how much consecutive time you spend off your phone, or Forest, which helps you stay task-focused (and plants actual trees!). Moment will track your screen time in total and by individual app, which might give you a reality check.

Limit the apps that are sucking your time away. Can’t help yourself? Apple’s new operating system allows users to set time limits by individual app—so you can’t spend more than an hour a day on Facebook, even if you try. You can also set Downtime, which makes your phone inaccessible for a period of time, aside from limited apps and phone calls.

Designate phone-free times. For some times of day, set your phone on Do Not Disturb and put it in an out-of-the-way place to reduce temptation. You might do this for an hour in the morning when you get to work—to really make a dent in your to-do list—and for two hours during dinner and homework hours at night. Put your phone in the trunk or the glove compartment when you’re driving. With your phone out of the way, you’ll be free to devote your full attention to the tasks at hand.