Why you should turn off the computer and go outside

With spring not far away, here’s another reason to savor the balmy weather. A study from the University of Michigan claims that spending time outdoors improves and restores focus.

 

The researchers, led by Marc Berman,  asked 38 undergraduate students to perform several memory-intensive tasks intended to exhaust their attention resources. After the test, all the students were sent on an hour long walk– half through downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, and half through an arboretum. When the students were tested again after their walk, those who had spent their break surrounded by greenery performed better than the others.

 

Interestingly enough, the restorative effects of the nature walk were independent of the participants’ enjoyment of the walk. The poor students were sent out for a walk at four different times of year, including January. While the students understandably enjoyed the walk less at certain times of year, the students who walked through the arboretum still got the same mental benefits.

 

If you live in an urban environment, take comfort– even looking at pictures of the great outdoors can provide mental benefits. After demonstrating the restorative effects of spending time in nature, the researchers enlisted more undergraduate students and replicated the experiment. This time, however, the students were assigned to look at pictures of urban environments or more natural landscape. While the students did not benefit from the pictures as much as actually going outdoors, the scores of the students who looked at the nature pictures were significantly higher than the scores of the students who were assigned to look at the urban pictures. So, go outside if you can, but if you can’t, at least hang a nice waterfall picture where you’ll see it often. However, don’t go digital– another study found looking at a plasma screen displaying a nature scene provided no more mental benefits than looking at a blank wall.

 

This study is not the first to demonstrate efficacy of nature in calming the mind. In the late 1990s, researchers at a public housing development noticed that the women who lived in apartments with plants and trees immediately outside seemed to fare better than those who lived in apartment buildings without such landscaping. When the researchers measured these women’s concentration and attention through various tests, they found that the women who lived among the trees scored higher than the other women in the housing development.

 

You can read the University of Michigan study by clicking here.

 

The temptation for kids to come home and slump in front of the iPad or computer is real , especially at the beginning of the school year. New teachers, new classes, new schedules– to say nothing of re-learning how to intellectually engage for hours at a time. Homework and extracurricular activities require kids to recharge in a short period of time, though, so mindless activities are a luxury few kids these days can afford. The best way to beat the after-school slump may be some time outside. Whether your family walks home from school or the bus, relaxes for a few minutes in the yard, or simply does homework on the porch, try to incorporate some time with nature into your afternoon routine!

 

Clean Router can help your family unplug and enjoy time off-line together!

 

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There’s a new Messenger app for tweens, and here’s what you need to know

Technically, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits websites from collecting information from kids under 13. This hasn’t stopped social media giants from trying to attract the tween crowd, though. Some turn a blind eye to underage accounts, some require nominal verification of parental approval. Most are filled with ads and marketing, much to the parents’ dismay.

 

The latest arrival to the tween social media scene is Kid Messenger, a messaging app developed by Facebook. Intended to be the kid sister of Facebook’s Messenger app, Kid Messenger allows kids to send and receive texts, pictures, and videos to and from a specific contact list created by the parent.

 

Here’s how it works:

 

You start by downloading the Kid Messenger app in the App Store (iOS) or the Amazon app store. As of right now, Kid Messenger is not available in Google Play.

 

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Then, log into an existing Facebook account.

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Enter the child’s name. Both first and last name are required, but it will accept initials in place of the full names.

 

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Parents see a brief rundown of how Messenger Kids works and must accept the terms and conditions to create the account.

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Your child is asked to take or upload a profile picture, then the account creation process is complete. The home page lists, you, the parent, as the only contact and the only person your child can communicate with through the app.

 

If your child wants to expand his contact list, he will click “Ask to Add a Contact,” and this message will appear:

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He will type in a name and click send. You will receive this message in your Messenger app:

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Click Find Contact, and you will be redirected to your Facebook account. The Facebook friends you frequently interact with will appear automatically with a blue “Add” button next to their names. Or, you can type a name into the search bar. Either way, click “Add” to add this person to their contact list.

 

You can also manage the Kids Messenger accounts linked to your Facebook account by selecting the Messenger Kids option from the Explore menu.

 

As far as options for your kid’s first social media platform, Kid Messenger is not a bad choice. Facebook seems to have thought of every potential safety concern. The level of parental involvement is unprecedented (to my knowledge, anyway), which will help parents’ peace of mind. If parents don’t feel comfortable putting their kid’s real name or picture on the app, the app seems willing to accept pseudonyms and more ambiguous profile pictures. Of course, a kid could sign up with a friend’s Facebook account, but it hardly seems worth the hassle involved when he could sign up for a SnapChat account within seconds. Some parents may worry about data mining, but that’s an inescapable problem with any online activity, and the app doesn’t require any verifiable personal information. Kid Messenger also contains no advertisements– a rarity in today’s online world!

 

If Kids Messenger satisfies kids’ desire to send funny pictures, it’s certainly better than Instagram or SnapChat. The most likely problem parents will encounter is kids wanting to move on to cooler apps.

 

Keeping your kids safe online is a full-time job– and you’re busy! Let us help!

 

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Smartphone-addicted teens have visibly different brains, researchers say

 

Research presented yesterday at the Radiological Society of North America showed that brains of adolescents addicted to smartphones and the internet are measurably different than the brains of normal adolescents.

 

The study, conducted by professors at Korea University in Seoul, North Korea, used a technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to evaluate the brains of 19 teens diagnosed with a smartphone or internet addiction and 19 average teens. The goal was to measure each teen’s level of two types of neurotransmitters: GABA and Glx. GABA is crucial to vision and motor control, and regulates brain functions like anxiety. Glx speeds up the neurons within the brain. Maintaining the proper ratio of GABA to Glx is very important for mental health and quality sleep.

 

The researchers found that the addicted teens had higher ratios of GABA to Glx. Unsurprisingly, these teens were also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia. As part of the study, the twelve of the teens who were addicted to smartphones attended cognitive behavioral therapy for nine weeks. These teens’ GABA to Glx rations improved significantly after attending therapy, while the teens who did not attend therapy experienced no such improvement.

 

You can read more about the study by clicking here or here.

 

Smartphone and internet addiction is real, and its impact on teens is physical, emotional, and academic. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, struggle with their mental health, and get lower grades in school. The consequences of overusing electronics will affect their entire lives! It’s more important than ever to help kids develop healthy internet habits.

 

Use the Clean Router Proven Process!

 

Complete the set-up wizard

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New Research Links Excessive Screen Time and Suicide for Teenage girls

In the most sobering study on teens and screen time yet, researchers have found teenage girls who spend large amounts of time on computers and mobile devices were more likely to experience depression and attempt suicide.

 

The study used data from two nationally representative surveys that followed adolescents between the ages of thirteen and eighteen years old and national suicide statistics from the same age group. Researchers particularly focused on the effects of “new media”– any type of media having to do with computers. This includes some of the most popular forms of media among current teens: social media, apps, gaming, etc.

 

Researchers found that adolescent girls who spent three or more hours per day on a screen were 34% more likely to have a suicide-related outcome (suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts). This number rose to 48% for girls who spent five or more hours per day online. These measures of screen time specifically excluded time spent on homework! In fact, girls who spent more time on homework reported lower depressive symptoms. Interestingly, this study did not find a correlation between excessive screen time and suicide-related outcomes in adolescent boys.

 

What can parents do? According to this study, moderation and balance are key. Depression and suicide-related outcomes were actually higher in teens who reported no screen time than teens who reported one hour of screen time or less per day. This may indicate the importance of in-person socialization for teens, as the study’s data linked social media use to spending time with people off-line. Print media use (books, newspapers, etc.), playing sports, physical exercise, and attending church were also found to predict lower levels of depression and improved mental health. Sadly, this study found that today’s teens are doing more of what makes them depressed (excessive screen time) and less of what makes them feel better (reading, exercising, attending church, socializing off-line). Dr. Twenge, lead researcher on this study, believes this is why suicide rates among adolescent girls have sky-rocketed in the last five years.

 

You can read the study in full here.

 

It’s more important than ever before to keep your family safe online and help your kids develop healthy screen habits. Clean Router monitors all activity on your internet network, blocks pornography and adult content, and helps you enforce a healthy schedule! Try the Clean Router Proven Process today!

 

Complete the set-up wizard

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Bookmark Settings.CleanRouter.com

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Research links media multitasking to distractibility

Do you scroll Facebook while watching television? Or listen to music while typing a research paper? Play a game on your smartphone as you listen to an audiobook? According to a new study, you may be hurting your memory and attention span.

 

Media multitasking– consuming more than one source of media at a time– has been increasingly common since the advent of the smartphone. According to a survey by Common Sense Media, half of teens watch TV or use social media while doing homework, and over half text (60%) or listen to music (76%) while doing homework. Furthermore, most of those who do so don’t believe it affects the quality of their work.

 

Unfortunately, a new study begs to differ. Conducted at the University of Helsinki as part of the doctoral thesis of Mona Moisala, the study followed 149 teens and young adults between the ages of thirteen and twenty-four years old. The participants self-reported the amount of time they spent media multitasking and completed various tasks that required attention and focus while researchers measure their brain activity with an MRI. Those who admitted to greater amounts of time spent media multitasking performed worse on the attention, memory, and focus tests. Furthermore, their brains showed higher levels of activity in the areas related to attention and self-control, indicating these participants had to work harder than the others to stay focused and complete the required tasks. You can read more about the study and Moisala’s doctoral thesis here and here.

 

It’s fairly obvious that multitasking makes us slower. Some of us may even admit that switching back and forth between jobs leads to a lower quality result. However, this research suggests the consequences of multitasking may extend far beyond the tasks we juggle. The more we multitask, particularly when media consumption is involved, the more we train our brains not to focus. We lose the ability to tune out distractions, our self-control weakens, and our memories don’t stick.

 

The adage is if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Perhaps the more applicable lesson for 2017 is if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing single-mindedly.

 

Tune out distractions and put the technology in your home back in its place!

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Three reasons to turn off your smartphone today

Did you know the average person spends almost 3 hours a day on their smartphone? That’s about 20 hours a week– the equivalent of a part time job! Here are three reasons to take a well-deserved vacation from your smartphone.

 

1.Your brain needs quiet

A growing body of research shows that downtime is essential for optimal brain function. Scientists believe a certain kind of brain activity, sharp-wave ripples, help us store and consolidate memories. These ripples can only occur when our brain is resting but awake. Unfortunately, we’re prone to pull out our phones at just that kind of time– when we wake up in the morning, on public transportation, waiting in line, before we go to sleep at night. If you’ve been feeling forgetful lately, keep your phone in your pocket next time you have a quiet moment and just be still.

 

 

2. A better night’s sleep

The blue light emitted by tablets, televisions, computers, and yes, smartphones, hinders our brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps us fall asleep. Even if you fall asleep without difficulty, you may still want to read a book before bed. This study found that people who were on their phones at bedtime needed more time to fall asleep, spent a lower percentage of their time in bed actually asleep, and slept worse overall.

 

 

3. Improved relationships

Relationships obviously improve when people are calmer, better rested, and have better memories, but research shows relationships are helped in other ways as well when the phones are turned off. There’s a whole new line of research on “technoference” and its impact on relationships. Parents say their co-parenting improves when their phones are put away– they notice each other’s signals and work together more seamlessly.  Researchers have noticed that toddlers disintegrate when mom and dad check their phones and perk back up when devices are turned off. Women report more feelings of depression, lower life satisfaction, and lower relationship satisfaction when technology is allowed to interrupt couple time. Overall, pretty much every relationship in your family and social circle gets a boost when your phone takes a back seat.

 

Clean Router knows every smartphone (and family) needs some downtime.

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Unplugging may improve social skills, study suggests

A recent study suggests taking some tech-free time may improve tweens’ ability to recognize emotional cues from others.

 

The study, published in the academic journal “Computers in Human Behavior,” tested two classes of sixth graders (aged 11, 12, and 13 years old) on their ability to recognize nonverbal emotional cues. This was done by asking the participants to infer the emotional states of people in photographs and scenes from silent videos. One class of sixth graders then attended a five day nature camp, where the use of televisions, computers, and mobile devices was not permitted. The less fortunate sixth grade class stayed home, attended school, and maintained their current media habits which was, according to the surveyed sixth graders, about four and a half hours per day of media use. Both classes were tested again after the lucky sixth grade class returned home from camp.

 

After only five days, the sixth graders who spent five days away from technology significantly improved in their ability to read facial emotion– improvement the other sixth grade class did not match. You can read the original study here.

 

This study should be encouraging to parents (and teachers, therapists, grandmas, grandpas, and anyone who works with kids). In less than a week, these kids exhibited significant, measurable improvement. That means you don’t have to permanently ban all electronic devices from your home to promote your kids’ social development. Just a week or so at a time, perhaps during a family vacation or a portion of a school break, will help your kids to see and understand the people around them.

 

There’s no need to go overboard, though, because thanks to this study, we also can see that, given a little space, our kids will grow up and figure things out. The five day camp in this study was NOT emotional IQ boot camp or intensive social skills training– it was just a nature camp. The tweens didn’t need an intervention; they only needed a reason to log off and be present. As adults, we can give the kids in our care the incentive to unplug by modelling and insisting on tech-free times and spaces. If we make screen-free time normal, these kids will grow into adults who understand how and why to maintain healthy media habits.

 

Help your family unplug!

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3 Screen rules that will make your family healthier

As the number of mobile devices per household grows, doctors and researchers are increasingly worried about the effect of screen time on our health. Based on the latest research, here are three easy screen rules your family can follow to be healthier.

 

1) Put smartphones to bed– in the living room

Between the blue light hindering serotonin production, the intense FOMO of today’s teens and tweens, and the increasing pressure to stay connected, mobile devices can really interfere with a family’s sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to a whole host of physical, mental, emotional, and familial issues including obesity, lower GPAs, depression, and incessant bickering (just kidding–mostly). Implementing a household internet smartphone curfew will help everyone unwind and get to bed on time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids shut off the screens an hour before bedtime, so the aforementioned blue light does not prevent kids from getting sleepy.

Oh, and don’t forget to remove all mobile devices from the bedrooms. Research suggests that the mere presence of a nearby smartphone, even powered down, prevents us from sleeping deeply and well.

 

2) Have time-outs for screens

As researchers have studied the effects of screen time, one thing has become especially clear. The effects of screen time come not just from the screens themselves, but what the screen time is replacing. In other words, when Johnny is playing Halo, he isn’t expanding his vocabulary by reading a book, outside soaking up vitamin D, or building physical endurance on the soccer field.  When Susie is on Instagram at midnight, she’s not sleeping (see the first item above) or doing homework. Some parents use time-out to help young children re-balance their behavior and emotions. The principle can work even better for mobile devices and computers. Turning screens off at certain times like meal times, bedtime, and family time, or just whenever needed can help maintain a healthy screen/life balance.

 

3) Don’t let screen time be alone time

There’s one piece of internet safety advice that comes up over and over again: keep computers in a public space. With all the mobile devices these days, keeping anything with internet access out in the open is harder to pull off but still important. Teens’ and tweens’ impulse control is embryonic– very real, but insufficiently prepared to survive unsupported. Transparency is the support kids need. It will prevent cyberbullying, pornography addiction, sextortion, and “doing homework.” Turn off the internet when the parents are out of the house, and keep computers and mobile devices out of the bedrooms.

 

A healthy screen/life balance is possible! Let Clean Router help you set limits and keep your family balanced.

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Your phone distracts you more than you know

Think you can fire on all cylinders with your smartphone out? Think again. A new study suggests simply your smartphone’s presence drains your brain power.

 

Researchers recruited 520 undergraduate students and randomly assigned them to one of three groups. One group was asked to leave all their belongings outside the lab. The students in the second group were asked to bring their phones into the lab and place them face-down in a certain place on their desks. The third group of students was instructed to bring all belongings into the lab and keep their phones “wherever they ‘naturally’ would.” All the students completely silenced their phones before beginning the experiment. The students then completed a variety of assignments and tasks designed to measure attention and cognitive capacity and answered questions such as:

 

“When completing today’s tasks, how often were you thinking about your smartphone?”

“How much / in what way do you think the position of your cellphone affected your performance on today’s tasks?”

“In general, how much do you think your cellphone usually affects your performance and attention span?”

 

And other questions to measure the students’ perceived effects of smartphone presence on their performance on the day of testing and in general.

 

No matter the location of their smartphones, almost all the students believed their phones had not and did not affect their performance. However, the students whose phones were in the other room performed best out of all three groups on the tasks measuring both cognitive capacity and attention, and the students whose phones were on their desks performed the worst on their tasks.

 

The students also answered questions about their dependence on and emotional attachment to their smartphones, such as whether or not they agreed with such statements as “I would have trouble getting through a normal day without my cell phone” or “Using my cellphone makes me feel happy.” Interestingly, students who said they felt dependent on their smartphone were more cognitively impaired by its presence than those who said they liked using their phones. Our brains seem to be wise enough to be pulled more by what we need than what we enjoy.

 

In a world where life is often a race against time, this study should make us think. None of the students checked their phones during the study– not even once– yet those close to their phones were measurably distracted. Do we work longer and longer hours because our smartphones are siphoning away our attention and brain power? What are the implications for driving– an activity for which focused attention is literally the difference between life and death?

 

Perhaps this study should be required reading for Driver’s Ed.

 

To read more this study, titled “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity” and published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, click here and here!

 

Are smartphones distracting your family from life off-line?

 

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