Teens are spending more time on screens and enjoying life less

It may seem like today’s teens only enjoy screen-related activities, but researchers say the excessive screen time is keeping them from enjoying much of anything.


Researchers from the University of Southern California wanted to understand a previously documented correlation between teens’ screen time and substance use. They believed that anhedonia, the reduced ability to experience pleasure or enjoy previously favored activities, may explain why teens who spend more time on their screens are more likely to use controlled substances. Anhedonia is a common symptom of depression, and other research had pointed to a relationship between screen time and decreased mental health.


The study surveyed over a thousand fourth graders four times over the course of three years about their screen time and anhedonia. As the researchers had thought, the teens who spent more time on their screens were more likely to experience anhedonia. The teens who experienced anhedonia were also more likely to engage in substance use, thus confirming the theory that anhedonia was a factor in the correlation between screen time and substance use.


It’s a phenomenon we have all experienced, on a small scale at least. After finishing an episode of a tv show, the most attractive activity is another episode. After a morning of binge-watching Netflix, it’s hard to feel motivated to get up and go for a hike. The more we invest in social media, the more reality feels dull and colorless in comparison. We’ve all seen children often wander in circles after Mom turns off the tv. Real life is slower, understated, and less flashy than life plugged in.


When we understand better how our brains work, and how stimuli affect our brains, it allows us to go through life aware and equipped to take control. We can second-guess our lack of desire to unplug and remind ourselves of the joys of in-person interaction, the outdoors, physical exercise, and more. Mindfulness helps us see through the brain fog and remind ourselves who we really want to be.


You can read the study here.


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Porn associated with marital instability, study says


A new study further illustrates the awful effects of pornography on marriage.


The researchers, drawing from data from the National Portraits of Life study, studied married couples surveyed in 2006 and in 2012. The couples were asked in 2006 about their pornography consumption habits, and, in 2012, the researchers checked to see if the couples were still together and again assessed the couples’ pornography consumption.


Analyses of the data showed that couples who viewed pornography in any amount or frequency in 2006 were TWICE as likely to be separated in 2012 as the couples who abstained from pornography. Furthermore, the correlation remained even after controlling for marital happiness and sexual satisfaction in 2006 and other sociodemographic factors. To read more about this study, click here!


Pornography is frequently sold as a way to “spice up” marriages and relationships, but modern research debunks this myth. Drs. John and Julie Gottman, prominent marriage and family experts, published an open letter on the harms of pornography, including reduced relationship satisfaction, decreased emotional connection between partners, and a higher likelihood of extramarital affairs. Anecdotally, spouses of individuals who use pornography report lower levels of self-esteem, body image, and trust, and higher levels of depression and anxiety. In short, pornography is more likely to torch a marriage than to spice it up.


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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.


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Toddler Tantrums? “Technoference” may be the culprit

When the kids are driving you crazy, think twice before you reach for your phone. New research suggests that kids, particularly toddlers and preschoolers, act out more when parents are too plugged in.


The study, conducted at Illinois State University, surveyed 170 American families about parental tech habits and the kids’ behavior. Brandon T. McDaniel, the lead researcher, focused primarily on “technoference,” a social science label for technology use interrupting real life interactions. Parents who had poor tech/life balance– checking the phone often, feeling lost without one’s phone, and/or turning to the phone when lonely– were more likely to have technoference in their relationships, which in turn correlated with more negative behavior from their children. The children in the study were around three years old.


Modern parents are becoming more attuned to children’s screen time, and rightfully so. However, like secondhand smoke, technology dependency affects even screen-free kids. This is not the first study to link heavy tech use to sub-optimal relationships, but this is the first to confirm the intuitive link between excessive smart phone attachment by a parent and toddler meltdowns.


The study also noted that not all of the children externalized the disappointment of losing their parents’ attention to a phone; many children withdrew and exhibited internalizing behaviors as well. While this may be more convenient immediately, children who internalize negative feelings suffer later as they struggle to develop healthy coping mechanisms. It’s not hard to envision a multi-generational cycle: a lonely or bored parent self-medicates with a screen, the child internalizes the hurt of being passed over for a screen, the child learns to cope with negative feelings through screens, the child becomes a parent and models the same heavy tech use, the children again take after the parents.


Parents, if you don’t model healthy screen habits, who will? Demonstrate unplugged time, prioritize face to face interaction over digital messages, and put your own devices to bed at a healthy hour. Children may follow rules temporarily, but their long-term habits as adults are more likely to resemble yours. Put the phone away, turn it off, shut it down, leave it alone. Teach your children to value reality over artificiality, and you’ll instill a lesson that will protect them for a lifetime.


You can find the original study here or read about it in the Chicago Tribune by clicking here.

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You’ve got mail: How online options affect our real-life relationships

The ’90s were just the beginning.


When Meg Ryan eagerly booted up her laptop to email her pen pal, online relationships were romantic and risky. Now, even off-line relationships have a digital side.


Technology allows us to connect despite distance. Physical proximity is no longer required, but it is no longer sufficient either. When we have limitless possibilities for convenient human contact, it is easier to overlook the people next to us. Off-line interaction is messier. People in real life don’t exist at our convenience. Reactions are harder to mask  and less controlled. Bravado is less easily maintained. If in doubt, contemplate the prospect of ending a relationship in person or over digital messaging. The tough conversations are unquestionably harder in person.


Digital aspects of relationships can also be affected by the toxic culture of the internet. Online interactions (i.e. Tinder and the comment section of any forum) are extreme and do not model appropriate pro-social behaviors. For example,  a young teenage boy who texts “URH” is mimicking Tinder culture, even though he is too young for Tinder, and talking to a female peer more boldly than he would in real life. This causes the teenage girl to similarly mimic raunchy dating apps and reply in a more adult tone than she would in real life. Such a relationship escalates more quickly than normal and in a way inappropriate for teenagers.


In fact, digital relationships do not accurately real life relationships in a myriad of ways. There are no dirty socks on the floor, no pressure to come up with dates and other activities, and no need to carve out time for each other. The couple does not become acquainted with each other but with the carefully doctored image each person projects. The risk in an online relationship is minimal– there are 200 more profiles to scan if this one doesn’t work out.


Despite the movie’s title, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks found love by living, not over email. Tom brought Meg daffodils when she was ill, and Meg watched Tom outgrow greed. While digital options can enhance or spark off-line relationships, too much screen romance erodes true love.


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internet safety for kids

People Have More To Offer

Many users turn to pornography to try to fill a void. Their loved ones then ask themselves, “Why wasn’t I enough?” Husbands and wives especially feel that they just can not compete with the airbrushed fantasy.


After hearing this refrain over and over, marriage and family therapist Lori Cluff Schade published this article  on FamilyShare. Titled, “What you have to offer that pornography does not: A message to women,” the author explains to spouses of pornography users that their perception of inadequacy is all wrong. In reality, pornography is inadequate, and people win any possible comparison. Pornography cannot provide the loving support and companionship of a real life spouse. Pornography is fake– that it is why it does not satisfy.


In our digital age, too many of us forget that reality has more to offer than fantasy. We immerse ourselves in fandoms and idolize fictional characters, blind to the real life possibilities for love and adventure around us. We count “friends” and forget to nurture meaningful friendships. We capture endless selfies, but fall short of becoming our best selves.


In 2016, let us treasure reality over fantasy. Most importantly, though, let us remember that people have more to offer than screens.



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Arizona Family Council endorses Clean Router

Grandma’s on Facebook: 5 Stats about Older Adults and Social Media

Surprised by a friend request from Grandma? While the technologically illiterate Baby Boomer is a stereotype in our society, that image falls short of the truth. The older generation is flocking to social media and the Internet to keep up with kids and grandkids, build a community, and learn about current affairs. Skeptical? Check out these five statistics about older adults and social media.


1) In 2010, elders’ social networking use almost doubled, going from 22% to 42%.

2) 47% of Internet users aged 50-64 years old use a social media site, and 26% of Internet users 65 years and older use a social media site

3) Between April 2009 and May 2010, the number of social media users 65 years and older doubled.

4) Every day, 20% of adults aged 50-64 years use social media.

5) Older adults with a chronic disease are more likely to be on social media. They show a strong preference for blogging and online health message boards.


To see the source of these stats, click here!


Grandparents, don’t forget to protect your house and your family against pornography! Click here to visit our website and learn what Clean Router Pro can do for you today!

Why Block Porn: Because YOU Want To

In the last installment of our “Why Block Porn” series, we want to focus on a reason that does not really get talked about.


You know that you should block porn because you want grandkids someday.


You know that you should block porn for your spouse.


You know that you should block porn because it will save you money.


But the best reason to block pornography from your home is because you want to. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you don’t want to see it anymore. Surprised? Keep reading.


A recent study tried to discover what would increase women’s enjoyment of pornography. The researchers, Dr. Katherine Goldey and Dr. Sari van Anders of the University of Michigan, hypothesized that women would become more stimulated by viewing pornography they chose themselves. Their hypothesis proved correct; however, another surprising result emerged. The more choice the participants had over the pornographic material they viewed, the more they experienced negative emotions such as disgust, guilt, and embarrassment. Keep in mind that the researchers actively sought out women for the study who were comfortable with sexually suggestive and explicit material. This study (you can read more about it here) indicates that even women who say they enjoy pornography…. don’t really enjoy it.


The men are not behind either. Esquire recently ran a story (read it here) about young men giving up pornography as part of the NoFap movement. This is a generation of men who viewed sexually explicit material long before their first “real life” sexual experience (on average around age eleven). Many are realizing this inundation of artificial stimulation has impacted them for the worse, and so they are giving up porn. The followers of NoFap report a better sex life, more energy, and increased alertness, among other perks.


If the money, your grandkids, and your spouse are not enough motivation to block pornography from your home, do it for yourself. Removing porn from your life will only have positive effects for your health, your productivity, your intimate relationships, and your emotional well-being. Visit our website today to learn how to achieve online peace of mind!


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twitter tips for teens

A Psychologist’s Tips for Talking to Kids About Internet Safety

Dr. Tracy Bennett, a psychologist that specializes in internet safety for kids, published two companion articles discussing the teen and tween sexting phenomenon. These articles, titled “Hey Dad, Your Twelve Year Old Daughter Has a ‘Nude Out'” and “Mom, Your Fifteen Year Old Boy Might Be Acting Like an Internet Predator” provide parents with insight into this trend and what they can do to discourage their kids from getting involved. Dr. Bennett also explains how teens’ brain development factors into the equation.


Among other tips, Dr. Bennett encourages parents to cover the following points:


  • “People are far more than a body part. Behind every text, image, and idea is a human being with thoughts, feelings, and value. Treating yourself or others as an object instead of a person is demeaning.”
  • “Screen media is a powerful tool. Once your hit ‘send,’ that text, image, or video can never be taken back. Consider if it would be OK to show it on the screen in a school assembly before you send it to anybody. And parents, if you need help don’t hesitate to reach out to the school administration or the police. They are well versed in these issues and have specially-trained personnel. It’s rarely a good idea to approach the other children involved or their parents for that matter.”
  • “Save private interactions for face-to-face relationships. If it’s on screen media, it’s unlikely to stay private.”
  • “Collecting ‘likes’ is not love. Sometimes it’s even the opposite.
    Represent yourself online just as you would offline. Character matters.”

Note: Clean Router may block one or both of these articles. While they discuss mature themes such as sexting, sexuality, bullying, and sexual predators, the articles contain no explicit content.


To learn more about keeping your family safe online, visit our website at!

“Removed” series highlights our attachment to mobile devices

Photographer Eric Pickersgill has published a series of photographs that highlight just how attached our society is to mobile devices.


The series, titled “Removed,” depicts people in ordinary situations using smart phones or tablets. However, Pickersgill has removed the mobile device from the finished photograph. The finished result depicts men, women, and children looking down at their hands.


The photographs, one of which is pictured above, evoke feelings of emptiness and loneliness. The irony, of course, is that many of us consider ourselves more connected to friends, family, and society by virtue of the internet. However, in “Removed,” it’s easy to see what we are really missing out on: time with loved ones, moments of everyday life, and the beauty of the world around us.


To view the rest of the “Removed” series by Eric Pickersgill, click here.