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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Forget Momo, here’s what parents really need to understand about YouTube

If you clicked on this article hoping to read about Momo, you are in the wrong place. The horrifying creature has already gotten more attention than she (it?) deserves, and I’d rather not waste any more words on her. And I certainly won’t be including any pictures.

 

Momo captures every parent’s worst fear about the internet, so the story has understandably caught fire online, but she (it?) has not changed anything about YouTube. The reality of the dangers of YouTube are larger than any one threat of questionable veracity.

 

But I just emerged from under a rock and have no idea what you’re talking about!! What’s Momo?? Pleeaassee??

 

Fine.

 

Momoisaterrifyingpossiblyfemaleprobablyfictionalcharacterthatappearsinthemiddleofseeminglyinnocentvideosofcartooncharactersandtellskidstohurtthemselvesandthreatenstheirparents’livesiftheytell.

 

Ok, that’s all the time I’m giving this subject. Moving on…

 

It does not matter if Momo is real or a hoax. Well, it matters to YouTube, law enforcement, and filtering companies like us, Clean Router. But for parents, nothing has changed. YouTube is still a microcosm of the internet as a whole: fun, weird, educational, dumb, incredibly useful, dangerous, uplifting, and capable of wasting hours of your family’s time. With that said, there are some specific aspects of YouTube parents need to understand to protect their families.

 

1) Filtering options exist, but they are not foolproof

Our CleanYouTube is awesome. YouTube Kids is pretty good. Neither are a replacement for parental supervision. Because billions of people can and do add content daily, filters have a hard time keeping up with all the new content. Block YouTube and any alternative your family uses. When your kids access YouTube, insist they do so in a public area of your home with an adult present. Kids think they won’t run into trouble because they are not looking for it; parents may think the same. But the reality is…

 

2) YouTube has gotten sneakier

Not the company themselves, but the users who upload inappropriate content. Obviously the “Girls Gone Wild” videos are trouble, but seemingly innocent options can have yucky surprises. It’s been well-documented over the past few years that videos of popular cartoon characters like Peppa the Pig and Elsa engaging in disturbing behaviors have flooded YouTube and are even slipping by YouTube Kids’ filters. The thumbnail and title contain no hint of the inappropriate content– there is literally no way to know if the video is ok until it’s too late. Gone are the days when raunchy sidebar videos were the most insidious YouTube threat.

 

3) Keeping your kids safe on YouTube requires more vigilance than other online content

Because disturbing YouTube content appears out of the clear blue, visiting YouTube is just more risky than accessing other parts of the internet. For parents, this probably means setting stricter rules. As suggested above, blocking YouTube is wise, especially with an option that allows temporary access with a password, like Clean Router. If you normally require kids to use computers and mobile devices in public areas of your home, you may want to require an adult in the room while using YouTube. You might allow some unstructured web surfing, but make your kids tell you exactly what they will be watching on YouTube, then leave the site when their video is finished. If you choose to allow younger children to watch YouTube videos, you should probably be next to them. On YouTube, secrets and privacy should be nonexistent.

 

Specific internet threats come and go, but the overall danger level of the internet and particularly YouTube stays more or less the same. Even if a scary face is not currently on the front page of Google News, pornography and other disturbing content still exists online, only a few clicks away from your kids. Parents, embrace the cat videos, because if your kids are watching, you should be too.

 

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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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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.

 

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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!

 

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