10 documentaries to watch with your family

Let’s face it—our kids are exposed to lots of media that is pure junk. Media frequently paints a world filled with such intense negativity— people out to impress, people out for themselves, people out to hurt others...the list goes on and on. So how to expose kids to media that has positive messages but is not overly sappy? To find media that is real and meaningful? In my completely unbiased view, I think documentaries make for great media. Okay, I am biased because I am one of many people who make documentaries. 

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Beggin for Sexts

I hear from many pre-teen and teen girls that they or their friends have been asked by boys via social media to send nude pics. In one discussion I had with a 10th-grade girl this week, she told me it “happens all the time” to her. This is so very disturbing. 
 
Now here is the real killer. The guys have been known to make threats if the girls don’t comply. Girls are threatened with social embarrassment on many fronts.

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Would your kids leave their smartphone at home during a family vacation?

I just got back from a 3-week vacation with Meleah, my 13-year-old highly social daughter. We have been doing the Tech Talk Tuesdays together for the last year, so there’s a lot of talk about screen time … but even so, she is a social teen who likes to “talk” to her friends via Snapchat, Facetime, and Instagram frequently.  

A week before we left she said: “Mom, I think I’m going to leave my iPhone at home.”  I played it cool and just asked why. She said she needed a break. So, we went old school and turned it back to 2004. 

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Top apps to help limit screen time for your kids

We've all lost track of time when using our phones. So many parents, myself included, want to make sure the screen time limits we've set are being followed by ourselves and our children. And we'd like the limits to be respected without saying "time's up" all the time. Luckily for us, there are several apps out there designed to manage screen time limits so we don't always have to. 

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A smartphone ban for kids, do you think there should be a law?

I received a few emails this week about the appropriate age to buy a young person a smartphone. Even if every kid you know has a smartphone, please keep reading. The more we are all thinking and talking about this, the better the solutions we will find. Data shows that younger and younger kids are getting smartphones —what is too young?

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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. 

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Colleges are watching, what do your kids post?

Last week, Harvard rescinded the acceptances of 10 incoming freshmen for posting racist, sexually offensive material in a Facebook messaging group titled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” As intense as the consequence may seem, this is an important reminder that nothing on the web is private, even private chat groups. 

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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?

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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What app developers learn from casinos

I just returned from Hong Kong, where I presented Screenagers at schools, churches, and associations. One of the most interesting screenings was at a conference for addiction professionals. Did you know that about 1% of the U.S. population has a gambling disorder? It is almost double that in Hong Kong.

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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?

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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What are teens saying about "13 Reasons Why?"

Last week we talked about the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and how to talk to your kids about the hard subjects seen in the show. The show has remained a constant headline for its graphic portrayal of cyberbullying, rape and suicide. It has received so much attention, Netflix announced a second set of warnings before episodes.

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"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?

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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4 rules for managing tech time

Families today are busy. Often everyone is running in different directions, and texting each other under the same roof is becoming the new normal. This disconnect in personal touch is troublesome.  To keep our sanity, and our face-to-face conversations alive, my family follows four rules...

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