Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype

Context and content may be more important factors than time alone when it comes to technology use during childhood

Excerpt from this article:

As a group of scientists from different countries and academic fields with research expertise and experience in screen time, child development and evidence-based policy, we are deeply concerned by the underlying message of this letter. In our opinion, we need quality research and evidence to support these claims and inform any policy discussion. While we agree that the wellbeing of children is a crucial issue and that the impact of screen-based lifestyles demands serious investigation, the message that many parents will hear is that screens are inherently harmful. This is simply not supported by solid research and evidence.

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“Kids Don’t Understand Privacy Anymore”

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All of this centers around a strong set of values—which parents and other mentors, can model for kids. The new world of social media does mean we all get to ignore our values, but it does require us to help young people navigate how their ideas get filtered and shared through these new means of communication. For instance, you have a sense of when it’s OK to resolve an issue via e-mail, but you also understand when it’s best to have a face-to-face discussion. The issue for kids is no different at its core—it’s just the medium that’s different. The challenge for you lies in the nuances of each communication mechanism, be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Stick to your core values. It is OK to emphasize things such as loyalty, but show your kids the difference between the the ways we communicate.

When Tech Is a Problem Child

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For the last six weeks, I’ve circulated (on social media!) 20 questions covering topics like homework, passwords, bedtime and punishments. I received responses from more than 60 families, and though the survey was unscientific, the answers have already changed how we manage tech at my house.

FIRST PHONES The vast majority of parents who responded gave their children their first phones in sixth or seventh grade, with a few holding out until high school. But those devices aren’t always cutting edge. Parents opted for “dumb phones,” “flip phones” or “hand-me-down phones” from siblings or grown-ups. They also turn off features, including Wi-Fi, Siri, even internet access.

FAMILY TIME Perhaps the biggest complaint about technology is that it eats into family time. So what techniques have parents used to take back that time?

First, tech-free dining. “No devices for all meals.” “No phones at the table, and that’s not just at our house. Siblings, nieces, nephews and my mom’s home have the same rule. No one gripes about it, they just do it.” “No devices at meals. No earbuds in the car.”

…Finally, when all else fails, many rely on the old parental standbys: threats, bribes and public humiliation. Threats: “Randomly I scream, ‘Take that phone out of your hand!’ It limits their use for the next five minutes.”

Bribes: “Parent-child date night. (Parents alternate taking one child out for a treat; fourth week is parents night out.)”

Public humiliation: “If a device is picked up during family time, we get to open texts, and my husband and I do dramatic text reading.”

 

Should You Spy on Your Kids?

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Digital monitoring — from tracking those whom loved ones communicate with to snooping on their social media accounts to checking their locations — is becoming common even among people who view themselves as mindful of the boundaries with their children and partners.

Is there such a thing as responsible spying on loved ones?

The answer depends on whom you ask. Strong believers in privacy reject the premise of the question outright, while others believe it is possible if consent, trust and respect are involved.

“It comes down to power dynamics,” said Mary Madden, a researcher at Data & Society, a nonprofit research organization. “You can imagine a scenario where, in a family, it’s an unhealthy dynamic.”

…“The game changes when we’re talking about a 16-year-old who feels ‘stalked’ by their parents,” Dr. Boyd wrote in an email. “This is because the sharing of information isn’t a mutual sign of trust and respect but a process of surveillance.”

In her fieldwork with teenagers, she said, she was disturbed to find that the privacy norms established by parents influenced their children’s relationships with their peers. Teenagers share their passwords for social media and other accounts with boyfriends and girlfriends.

“They learned this from watching us and from the language we used when we explained why we demanded to have their passwords,” she said. “And this is all fine, albeit weird, in a healthy relationship. But devastating in an unhealthy one.”

The Perils of ‘Sharenting’

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…Researchers, pediatricians, and other children’s advocates are in the early stages of designing a public-health campaign to draw attention to what they say is an inherent conflict between a parent’s freedom to publish and a child’s right to privacy.

… “It’s very rare that parents are sharing maliciously, but they haven’t considered the potential reach or longevity of what is happening with the information they’re posting,” says Stacey Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and the associate director of the school’s Center on Children and Families.

It’s typical for adults to mention a child’s name and birthdate in birth announcements and other posts on sites like Facebook and Instagram, for instance, which puts kids at risk of identity theft and digital kidnapping—when someone lifts images of another person’s kids and portrays them as their own. Some parents publish real-time information about their children’s whereabouts, potentially risking their safety. And well-meaning adults readily go online to share photos of their kids in a variety of intimate settings.

In Steinberg’s new paper, “Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media,” set to be published in the Emory Law Journal in the spring of 2017, she writes of a blogger who posted photos of her young twins while they were potty training. “She later learned that strangers accessed the photos, downloaded them, altered them, and shared them on a website commonly used by pedophiles,” Steinberg wrote. “This mother warns other parents not to post pictures of children in any state of undress, to use Google’s search features to find any images shared online, and to reconsider their interest in mommy blogging.”

 

Woman sues parents for sharing embarrassing childhood photos

Woman sues parents for sharing embarrassing childhood photos

Excerpt from this article (and this has sparked discussions elsewhere about how this could be the first of many such lawsuits as the children of mommybloggers, who had every embarrassing personal detail shared with the worldwide web, start to come of age):

A 18-year-old woman from Carinthia is suing her parents for posting photos of her on Facebook without her consent.

She claims that since 2009 they have made her life a misery by constantly posting photos of her, including embarrassing and intimate images from her childhood.

…The shared images include baby pictures of her having her nappy changed and later potty training pictures.

…Austrian privacy laws when it comes to social media are not as strict as some other countries – for example in France, anyone convicted of publishing and distributing images of another person without their consent can face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000. This would apply to parents publishing images of their children too.

Is parenting tech making mums and dads more paranoid?

Child showing off artworks

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Mr Songra believes technology is a useful parenting tool, but concedes that it may sometimes interfere with the work of professionals.

“At times it does affect their relations with doctors, because parents become paranoid about their child because of what they searched on Google,” he says.

“The problem is that we tend to believe the content of one link over 100 others, and then take actions based on that knowledge.But we believe all this will surely change with time, as there is going to be more awareness about these issues in the future.”