Do you have physical effects from screen overuse?

Tech Talk Tuesday: #59: Are there physical effects of screen time?

People often ask me about the medical risks that all this screen time is having on our kids—such as the development of eyesight problems or tendonitis. I get emails from ophthalmologists who are convinced that nearsightedness is increasing, but so far there are no long-term studies to say anything definitively. One thing studies do show is that plenty of time outside is needed to prevent nearsightedness.

People who spend long hours with computers, video game controllers, cellphones and the like are at higher risk of developing musculoskeletal pains which can develop in the neck, shoulders, thumbs, wrists, elbows and lower back. In a study of college students with very high cell phone use (vs. those with low usage), ultrasounds found that the group with high usage had enlarged median nerves and this was associated with causing more thumb pain. 

There is no denying that screen time is coming into classrooms at a faster and faster rate and this has many people, including myself, concerned about how this will affect our kids' physical health—both in the short and long term. So what can we do to prevent strain and pain from tech use? It is one thing to know information and quite another to change behavior. I tell my medical students that the hardest (and most rewarding thing) you will do is to help people to make lasting behavior changes. 

For this TTT let’s talk about physical health and screen time. Also, let's talk about what health information we have received in the past that has or has not changed our behaviors.

  • What health information have you learned in life that affects your choices?
  • Have you heard of any health risks of excessive screen time?
  • Have you noticed any health-related symptoms from texting or screens?

To Google or not to Google

To Google or not to Google

How many times have you or your kids pulled out a phone at dinner to quickly get the answer to a question that comes up?  Knowledge-on-demand is the norm now but I am concerned it takes away from interesting, deeper conversations and interrupts dialogue. When you don't have one answer, you are forced to generate your own ideas on the topic. Debate and quandary on a topic spurs imagination.

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Does device checking cause anxiety?

Does device checking cause anxiety?

The American Psychologic Association (APA) just released a report that looks at self-reported rates of anxiety from a survey of 3,511 adults in the United States. They found that almost 90% say that they either often check or constantly check their emails, texts and social media accounts. They call this 90% group “constant checkers (CC).” The CC group report higher anxiety levels than the people who report checking their devices less often. 

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Do your preteens or teen have cellphones in their bedrooms?

Do your preteens or teen have cellphones in their bedrooms?

A major study  recently showed without question the negative effect cellphones have on the quantity and quality of children’s sleep. It’s a major sleep public health issue: 75% of teens do not get the recommended 8 to 9 hours of sleep. Why public health experts care is because things like accidents, obesity, mental health problems all go up with sleep deprivation – and grades go down.

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4 Key rules for reducing screen time

4 Key rules for reducing screen time

My obsession with helping families parent around screen time is emotion-laden (this is about our kids so of course, it’s emotional) but also data-driven. Before I went to medical school, I was a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. After my medical training I did more research in communications and ethics. I love good data. We need good data. That said, we recently conducted a small survey of people from our Screenagers email list and I will be the first to say this is a biased sample. Respondents were not chosen at random but were found through their interest in Screenagers. But, the good thing is we can still glean insights from this data about family rules.  

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Have you or your teen ever been "ghosted?"

Have you or your teen ever been "ghosted?"
"The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. ... Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject's maturity and communication skills. .."

This happens with both teens and adults, I first heard of this practice when an adult friend told me about another friend who had simply stopped responding to emails, texts and phone calls. According to a Huffington post poll about 10 percent of Americans have "ghosted" someone to break up with them. Using avoidance as a coping skill is not new, but online communication has made that an easier way to deal with uncomfortable situations.

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Mental health issues on social media, who is talking?

Mental health issues on social media, who is talking?

The other day I was on a plane sitting next to a YouTube employee and we discussed that we both noticed that teens and young adults are posting more often about mental health issues. The woman told me that many famous YouTubers are talking about their own mental health challenges. For instance, YouTuber Lacie Green, talked about her own depression in this courageous video. The site The Mighty is also great resource.

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What is the right age to give your kids their own device?

What is the right age to give your kids their own device?

Yesterday I was talking to a mom in San Francisco who saw Screenagers this fall and she told me that she was dissapointed that I gave Tessa a phone in the end. She had seen my struggle with the issue through the movie but was really hoping I wouldn't cave. This mom has a 14-year old and has been very resolute about not giving her daughter a phone. Her daughter takes the public bus around the city and walks all over town by herself but she doesn't have a phone. She asked me, "Why not just say 'no'?" 

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Why is Tech Talk Tuesday important?

Why is Tech Talk Tuesday important?

Screenagers came to life for two main reasons. The first: experience and science have shown us that excessive screen time can affect kids negatively. The second: the fact that there is now such an extreme pull of screens on kids, parents need support to thoughtfully help their children to have time off screens. 

Given this is the biggest parenting issue of our time, we knew that a movie is a great start but that a real movement is needed and thus we created Tech Talk Tuesday (TTT).  WE WOULD LOVE YOUR HELP TO HAVE IT SPREAD AND HELP MORE FAMILIES. You can post it on Facebook, Twitter or email it to someone.

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SMART Tips for Real Life Change

SMART Tips for Real Life Change

With 2017 on the horizon, the last few days of 2016 are resolution season. Are you considering making some positive life changes? Great, me too. But how can we make the changes stick…for real this time?In my twenty years as a physician I have witnessed and experienced how hard it is to actually make a behavior change, no matter how compelling the reason. Even in the face of chronic obstructive lung disease, patients with years of tobacco use try to to quit and don’t always succeed. A person with diabetes can find it so hard to control eating habits, even though it’s a life and death matter.

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Family gatherings: Face-to-face or face-to-screen?

Family gatherings: Face-to-face or face-to-screen?

How comfortable are your kids talking to extended family and adult friends? One concern I often hear from parents is that they think screen time decreases face-to-face communication skills. I have not found any exceptional data around this issue. Families and friends will be together for the holidays and in these settings many kids and adults will gravitate towards their personal devices. When situations are uncomfortable or activity is slowed down this is accepted behavior these days. It upsets me when I see kids disappear into their screens when those special multigenerational opportunities for conversation are right in front of them.

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Do you know how much time parents spend playing video games?

Do you know how much time parents spend playing video games?

How much time do you, the adult, spend on screens?  This week Common Sense Media (CSM) released the results of a survey of 1800 parents that found that parents spend 7.5 hours a day of non-work time on screens, and 1.5 hours a day of work related screen time.  (Of note, if a respondent reported doing two screen things at once, such as watching TV while texting, the study counted that as two hours). Seven and a half hours is a lot, but if you include all the time parents are watching TV shows, *playing video games, doing social media, or on their phones while eating breakfast, while walking down the street, sitting on subways ... you can see how this adds up. 

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Who knows the family screen time rules?

Who knows the family screen time rules?

When my daughter Tessa, who is in Screenagers, saw the completed film, I was shocked by one of her first reactions. She said, ”I didn't realize so many other kids are dealing with all this rule stuff like we are." Of course, she had been with me over the years as I was making the film, and yet somehow, she did not know how common it is for families to struggle with setting limits. She went on to tell me how rarely any of her friends talked about their rules around screen time. 

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Is there a time and a place you unplug each day? Each week?

Is there a time and a place you unplug each day? Each week?

With Thanksgiving this week, it is a good time to think about the various practices of “unplugging." 

To help find times to unplug, a good starting point is to think more about when our kids are not on screens during each day, rather than when they are on screens. From there it's easier to set guidelines around unplugging. I’ve heard about many creative approaches to unplugging:

 

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    How can you use this election as a way to talk to your kids about bullying?

    How can you use this election as a way to talk to your kids about bullying?

    Candidates have used screens for good and for evil this election. They've used it to bully as well as to inspire.  Talking to your kids about this issue is a great way to open up the conversation about how they define bullying. Talk your teens today about how they, and you, used social media, polling data and other ways to get engaged and informed about the election this year.
     

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