Establishing Safeguards to Prevent Legal Trouble Online: A guest post from Carver, Cantin & Mynarich

As parents, we know excessive screen time and online mischief can impact our kids’ physical and mental health, grades, spirituality, and values. What we often forget or don’t realize, though, is getting into trouble online can have legal consequences for our kids. Today’s guest post from Carver, Cantin & Mynarich offers their legal perspective on why we need to keep our kids safe online.

 

Today’s children are the first digital natives. They were born into a world surrounded by digital devices- the perfect tools for education, communication, and entertainment. Unfortunately, the internet is also a dangerous world with issues ranging from cyber-bullying to inappropriate content. Here are a few ways parents can keep their children safe online and help them avoid legal trouble.   

 

Begin by limiting online time. The longer a child is exposed to digital media, the greater the chance of being exposed to its harmful effects. Several of the harmful effects of lengthy screen time include obesity from a sedentary lifestyle, sleep problems, and behavioral problems like bullying, learning developments, and violence. Additionally, more screen time means more time to find inappropriate content or get into other trouble online.    

 

So, just how much screen time is too much? According to the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under the age of 18 months should not be exposed to any. Those between 18 to 24-months can be exposed to very limited amounts, while those between 2 to 5-years can handle just one hour of supervised exposure. Beyond the age of 5, an allowance of no more than two hours per day is recommended.

 

Next, parents should monitor online time. Besides exposure time, parents need to determine the quality of the content their children consume. They should help their children choose positive educational content and talk about how to make good choices online. This could entail helping kids discern what is “fake news,” putting in place parental controls to ensure kids aren’t looking at overly-sexualized or other age-inappropriate content, or just talking about things online that might interfere with their emotional, physical, or mental well-being. Moreover, parents should watch programs with their children and discuss what they are watching. This will not only help parents monitor what their kids are doing, it will also help teach their kids the boundaries of what is and isn’t appropriate.

 

Consider installing protective software. Given that adults aren’t available 100% of the time to monitor what kids are watching, protective technology can be really helpful. There are a myriad of technologies that can protect them from potentially harmful content. One such tool is Clean Router. This enables parents to manage and monitor all digital devices in their home. As such, it blocks internet pornography, filters Youtube, enforces time restrictions, and logs all activity.

 

Finally, when it comes to your kids’ online time, be consistent with rules and consequences. One of the negative effects of online exposure to inappropriate content is violence, which includes physical and emotional bullying.

 

Cyberbullying is on the rise, especially among teenagers. It is bullying carried out via digital technologies, such as texts, emails, and social media. Among other things, bullying can cause low self-esteem, drugs and alcohol abuse, poor grades in school, and physical and emotional health issues. Moreover, cyberbullying has serious legal ramifications.   

 

Kids also may not realize the danger of sharing personal information or photos online. This is especially true when it comes to sexting, which involves sharing sexually explicit content via digital devices. Your teenager may think they are just sending a cute picture to their significant other, but in some states, sexting between teens can be legally considered the distribution of child pornography. In fact, several states have specific laws on teen sexting. In Missouri, for example, distribution of a minor’s sexually explicit content can attract a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine.

 

With serious risks like this, it is critical that parents establish safeguards to protect their children online. Though the internet is an incredible resource, it also opens the door to emotional, physical, and legal risks, especially for kids and teens.

 

 Carver, Cantin & Mynarich are a team of criminal defense lawyers in Springfield, Missouri. The firm specializes in Internet crimes, along with serious felonies, criminal tax, death penalty prosecutions and a wide-range of other criminal cases. The firm is a 2017 and 2018 U.S. News & Best Lawyers Best Law Firm in America.

 

Thank you, Carver, Cantin & Mynarich!

 

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Guest post from Mom Loves Best: Why Excessive Screen Time for Kids is Dangerous & What to Do About It

Today we have a treat for you readers: a guest post from Jenny Silverstone, the chief editor and author of Mom Loves Best, a research-driven parenting blog that aims to educate parents on essential topics such as children safety, health, and development.

 

Take it away, Jenny!

 

Do you worry about the amount of screen time your children get each day?

You are not alone. According to a recent report by Common Sense Media, 66% of parents are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on devices. Surprisingly, 50% of teens agree with them.

While technology can open many doors of information and be used for great good, there are also many risks involved. In a society equally obsessed and reliant on technology, how can parents regulate screen time for kids?

 

How Much Screen Time Should My Kids Get?

Screen time for Kids InfographicExposure to media and technology is an inevitably for all children, whether at home or in school. In fact, it is important for your children to be able to understand and utilize the tools available to them.

However, the dangers of smartphones, computers, televisions, and movies, come when they are overused. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has set forth recommended guidelines for how much screen time your child should have each day:

  • Children under 18 months: Screen time is not recommended for children under 18 months. Babies are unable to gain anything from media, though the AAP says video chatting is fine.
  • Children 18 to 24 months: You may begin introducing media to your child in limited amounts.
  • Children 2 to 5 years: Limit to one hour of supervised screen time a day. Choose positive and educational programming. The AAP discovered this screen time is useful most often when parents watch with the children and explain what they are seeing.
  • Children 6 & older: At the age of six, the AAP suggests parents begin determining how much media is appropriate for their child, setting guidelines and making sure media usage does not interfere with your child’s physical, emotional, or mental well-being. Two hours a day has been generally suggested.

It is important parents not only focus on how much screen time their children get, but also on the quality of media they consume. Parents should watch and discuss media with their children, teaching them how to apply what they see to their everyday life.

The Dangers of Excessive Screen Time

There are a number of risks associated with excessive screen time for kids:

  • In young children, screen time has shown to negatively impact learning development. Because they are focused on the screen, they miss opportunities to interact with parents and participate in creative play, two essential activities for learning language, problem-solving, and behavioral skills.
  • Children of all ages have experienced impaired sleep schedules with excessive screen time, having difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Screen time of any sort is a risk factor for childhood obesity, with children consuming over 150 extra calories on average per hour of television watched.
  • The bright lights of screens can cause vision problems, headaches, and irritability.
    Communication and interpersonal skills are inhibited.
  • The longer the exposure to a technological screen, the higher the risk.

 

Cutting Down on Screen Time as a Family

The best way to cut down on screen time for your children is to join with them. Making a goal as a family will help everyone remain diligent and accountable. Here are five tips to reduce the amount of screen time you are exposed to:

  1. Designate “no-screen” areas of your home. The best place to start is the dinner table.
  2. Have a plug-in station at night in a public area. All cell-phones are plugged in to be charged overnight, but not available to use.
  3. Try unplugging an hour before bed if you can.
  4. Use this website, sponsored by the AAP, to create a Personalized Family Media Plan. You can also calculate how much time your family spends on a screen.
  5. Avoid placing televisions and computers in bedrooms.
  6. Find a loud timer to keep track of how much screen time your children get. In the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to lose track of time. You can also use special routers to make setting time restrictions easy.

 

Thanks for joining us today, Jenny!

 

At Clean Router, we understand how difficult it can be to slow your family down and keep them safe from the negative side effects of technology. That is why we strive to provide you with a simple tool to monitor all of the media in your home.

 

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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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Cyberbully or victim? Here’s what research says about kids who bully (or are bullied) online

Which kids will be bullied online? Which kids will become the bullies? According to this study, it all comes down to why they log into social media.

 

Researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Iowa examined data from 340 teens in a national survey. The teens had been asked about their social media habits, including why they use social media, if they’d ever been bullied online, or if they had ever bullied anyone else online.

 

The results were very interesting: the bullies and their victims were using social media for slightly different reasons. The bullies used social media for romantic relationships and social comparisons, but they were less likely to log on for information or entertainment. Their victims also used social media for romance and social comparison, but they were more likely than the bullies to use social media to have a community or place they belonged.

 

This study highlights two important lessons for parents. First, online dating is now a completely redundant term– teens are starting, developing, and ending their romantic relationships online as often as not, and all teen romances now have a digital component. Some relationships even take place entirely through smartphones. If your teenage daughter isn’t driving off to the movies every Friday night with a boyfriend, it does not preclude the possibility that she’s seeing someone.

 

Perhaps more significantly, however, is that there is overlap between the motivations between the cyberbullies and the cyberbullied. This makes perfect sense for the simple reason that they are often the same people. What too many people don’t realize about emotional pain is that it’s essentially a game of hot potato– hurting people hurt people. When people don’t cope with emotional pain, it explodes out of them.  Give a hurting teen a smartphone and the illusion of anonymity, and the temptation is too much to handle.

 

You can read the study by clicking here.

 

It’s more important than ever to keep tabs on your kids online. Use the Clean Router Proven Process!

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

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Here’s why your kids shouldn’t watch TV before bed

A new report in the academic journal Pediatrics confirms what we already suspected– kids shouldn’t be on electronic devices before bed.

 

The researchers, a team from the University of Colorado, analysed all past literature on electronics, kids, teens, and sleep. They concluded screen use in the hour before bedtime was, in almost all studies, associated with worse sleep. Why? The researchers presented three possible explanations.

  • Time displacement
  • Psychological stimulation
  • Effects of “screen light” on the physiological process of falling asleep

 

Time displacement simply means the kids stayed up later than planned because they were watching tv. Since all of us adults have watched one too many episodes of our favorite show (especially since the advent of Netflix and the auto-start feature), it’s no surprise that kids, with their underdeveloped impulse control, frequently ditch their bedtimes in favor of another round of Minecraft or another episode of “Stranger Things.” We would probably all be better rested and get to bed on time more often if we turned off our electronic devices an hour before bedtime.

 

Then there’s the fact that our favorite games, shows, and apps are designed to be exciting. After all, that’s why we enjoy them! But such psychologically stimulating content works against our kids at bedtime. While you and I may be able to drift off just fine after the latest Marvel movie, kids are very easily overstimulated and need extra time to unwind after such vicarious thrills and cliffhangers.

 

Even the type of light emitted by electronic devices keeps us from a good night’s sleep. As the report states, “The spectral composition of light produced by many electronic devices is enriched for short wavelengths (∼450 nm) in the blue light range.9 Short-wavelength light is generally more effective than longer-wavelength light for suppressing melatonin levels, phase shifting the circadian clock, acutely increasing alertness, and altering subsequent sleep.” In other words, light from electronic devices  hinders our brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical which causes us to feel sleepy. The report goes on to explain that children’s eyes aren’t fully developed, so they are more susceptible to the effects of iPad light. Add that to the normal tendency of overtired children to fight sleep, and you have the perfect recipe for a poor night’s sleep.

 

You can read the full report in Pediatrics by clicking here.

 

Is your family in need of a good night’s sleep? Clean Router uses customizable features to encourage your family to power down the electronics and enjoy a relaxing evening and peaceful night.

 

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twitter tips for teens

Study links anxiety, social media use in young adults

A new study has demonstrated an association between anxiety and social media use for young adults.

 

The researchers, from the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, surveyed 563 young adults, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two years. Each participant answered questions about his or her anxiety symptoms (if any) and the symptoms’ effect on daily life. The young adults also reported the amount of time spent on various social media sites. The data indicated that more time spent on social media predicted more frequent anxiety symptoms. The connection was particularly strong for individuals who visited social media sites daily. You can read the original study here.

 

Are these young adults anxious because of time spent on social media, or are they logging in because they feel anxious? Persuasive arguments can be made for both theories. Social media is a popular coping mechanism because of the ease of access (as close as your smart phone) and instant validation (likes, follows, someone always online, etc.). Researchers have seen positive feedback on social media floods our brains with dopamine, the pleasure chemical. Anxious young adults may very well use social media more often because it makes them feel better.

 

However, the Facebook effect has also been well-documented, and the adage “Comparison is the thief of joy,” exists for a reason. Social media documents red letter days and special moments– weddings, births, deaths, losses, graduations, moves, vacations– and omits the monotony of a functional life. After too much time on social media, it’s easy to feel everyone else has a cooler life.

 

The more likely scenario is that both theories are correct. Young adults, when feeling anxious or down, check social media, see the glamorous parts of others’ lives, and feel even more anxious.

 

What’s do be done? Abstaining entirely from social media may be helpful, but many young adults would be reluctant to do so. In this case, scheduling Facebook-free time and simply being mindful of one’s own reaction can minimize joy-thieving comparisons.

 

Need a break from social media?

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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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