Do you know what your kids are reading on Snapchat?

Tech Talk Tuesday #72: Do you know what your kids are reading on Snapchat?

I am really upset. As you know, I stay pretty neutral when writing TTT, but today I am taking a side. Yesterday my teenage son Chase showed me the Discover feature on Snapchat. If you are unaware, the Discover feature grabs content from a variety of sources — Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, CNN among many others and makes it accessible to anyone, including our kids. 
 
More often than not, the stories include explicit sex and sexist messaging.  Chase and I found the stories from Cosmopolitan especially offensive. But what makes me so mad is that there is no way to remove or block the Discover Story feature on the app. 
 
Snapchat is supposed to be for 13 years old and over. The Apple store actually says 12 years old. But whatever the supposed age, the fact is Cosmopolitan and other content creators in Discover have tons of explicit material—much of it offensive for anyone to read, let alone kids.
 
So what to do? Well, last summer a 14-year-old boy and his mother filed a lawsuit against Snapchat because of the Discover feature. The suit accuses Snapchat of violating the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which is suppose to help regulate explicit content on the Web. Not much seems to be happening with the lawsuit. 
 
In addition to civil penalties, the lawsuit asks Snapchat to put in-app warnings about possible sexually explicit content. No word yet if any action has been taken. 
 
For today’s TTT, talk with your kids and teens about this—If they don’t have Snapchat, then I have added questions to give other options:

  • Is there anyone you really love getting a Snapchat from or if not on Snapchat, email or call?  (I always recommend starting with a positive question so to create a warm, supportive environment, rather than defensive)
  • What things have you seen on Snapchat (or other screens) that are more racy? 
  • Have your kids seen Cosmopolitan on their phone and if so, what do they think of it? (Don’t be worried that talking about it will make them want to go and look more—If kids and teens are online we have to have conversations about media and images because they see a lot of things.)
  • Should companies be held responsible, so they don’t expose kids to sexually explicit materials?
     

Survey update and ... Do you know the cell phone policy on field trips?

Survey update and ... Do you know the cell phone policy on field trips?

In the past couple of months, I visited schools where the teachers talked to me about concerns over kids and cell phones during field trips. The teachers told me about the upsides and downsides of kids being glued to their phones during the bus rides. They said that one main upside is that it keeps the noise and chaos to a minimum on the bus. However, most of the teachers didn’t want the kids to have the distraction of the phone when they got to the destination and it was a pain to try to enforce a no-cell phone rule while the students were supposed to be engaged in the activity. 

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Do you know the cell phone policy at your child's school?

Do you know the cell phone policy at your child's school?

When I visit schools across the country, I am consistently surprised that students, parents and even teachers are frequently unsure of the cell phone policies at their school. I have found very little information about the breakdown of school policies concerning cell phones. Wouldn't it be great if we had data on how often middle schools allow students to have cell phones with them all day? And wouldn’t it be great if we knew what policies parents want? Sadly this collective information does not exist. Cell phones in our schools is a quickly changing landscape and research does not do well under pressure, but it is still needed.Our weekly Tech Talk Tuesday newsletter is a perfect opportunity to start collecting some data on cell phone policies. I created a very short survey to ask you what policies exist at your student’s school and what policies you think would be ideal. We timed the survey and it only takes 1 minute!

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The upside of video games...

The upside of video games...

I strongly believe that one of the most powerful aspects of Tech Talk Tuesday is starting the discussion with something positive about the tech in our lives. Kids are so used to hearing our negatives about tech time, that they may start to tune out if the discussion if it is not balanced. If we really want to have effective dialogue that creates a lasting tech balance with our kids, we need to talk about the positives too. Believe me, your kids will want to hear this week’s TTT.

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Do your kids have Mentor Moms?

Do your kids have Mentor Moms?

This Mother’s Day I am going to ask for my family’s undivided ATTENTION. We will put all screens away and have some fun-focused family time. I was reminded of the power of undivided attention when I spoke with a mom in Florida last week. She was running the community center that was hosting Screenagers, and out of the blue, she mentioned a Mother’s Day she had five years ago that was particularly memorable. She had asked each of her adult kids to leave all cell phones in the car for the evening, “We went for a walk then out to dinner and after we enjoyed some frozen yogurt, it was a fabulous Mother’s Day.” I am looking forward to a device-free Mother's Day.

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"13 Reasons Why" and how to talk to our teens about hard issues

"13 Reasons Why" and how to talk to our teens about hard issues

Teens all over the world are streaming the Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why.” The series, based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, explores hard issues like online bullying, rape, and suicide. Because youth today so often watch shows alone on their personal devices, it is imperative that we engage and have conversations with our teens about these intense subjects. 

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Hooked: How do media companies keep us glued?

Hooked: How do media companies keep us glued?

I just returned from Australia where I was rolling out Screenagers. The film has screened in more than 30 countries so far and we have a new partnership in Australia that is really exciting. Doing screenings and press throughout put me in contact with parents, teachers, and reporters. All over the country, I heard exactly the same questions and concerns I’ve heard in the U.S. and in other countries:  Why are we so glued to our devices and what is excessive screen time? A new book called Irresistible by Adam Alter looks at why everyone seems to be is so entranced by screens.  He makes points such as how Netflix shows are designed specifically for binge watching.

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Do you have physical effects from screen overuse?

Do you have physical effects from screen overuse?

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.

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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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