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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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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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.




Then, log into an existing Facebook account.


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



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


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:



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



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.


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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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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.


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Social media makes you sad, study says

If you feel a little blue today, too much time on social media may be the culprit. A study published by the Public Library of Science found logging into Facebook predicts a decline in subjective well-being. In other words, Facebook is a mood killer.


Researchers texted the study’s participants five times a day for two weeks and asked them to the following questions on a scale of 1 to 100:

  1. How do you feel right now?
  2. How worried are you right now?
  3. How lonely do you feel right now?
  4. How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?
  5. How much have you interacted with other people directly (face-to-face or on the phone) since the last time we asked?


The participants  also took other assessments measuring their satisfaction with life, motivation for using Facebook, loneliness, number of Facebook friends, level of depression, self-esteem, and how supported they felt on Facebook. Even after controlling for all these variables, researchers still found that the more time the study’s participants spent on Facebook, the worse they felt. Furthermore, those who spent greater amounts of time on Facebook during the two week period of the study experienced a significant decline in life satisfaction in that time. The more time on Facebook, the sharper the decline.


You can read the original study here.


While social media can be wholesome and fun, it’s important to understand the less obvious side effects. Teens and young adults especially should understand contribution social media makes to feelings of dissatisfaction, sadness, and loneliness. Periodically taking breaks from social media can keep our lives in balance and help us remember just what we all did before smartphones. Parents, lead by example– kids often can’t tell the difference between a work email and checking Facebook, so follow any screen time rules you set scrupulously and encourage frequent tech-free family time. Demonstrating a healthy screen/life balance will help kids understand there is life unplugged.


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Just be yourself on social media, study says

Some people rant and rave online, but have a hard time standing up for themselves in person. Some people create shiny social media profiles that omit the gritty side of life. Some people make intimate confessions online they could never bring themselves to say out loud. No matter your style, if the discrepancy between your online persona and your off-line self makes you feel a little two-faced, maybe it’s time for a change. Research suggests closing the gap between your Facebook self and your IRL self leads to better mental health and a better social life.


The study, published in the academic journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, asked 164 people to complete surveys on mental health and social connectedness and two personality assessments: one as their online self, and one as their off-line self. The researchers found those with similar online and off-line selves were more socially connected and less stressed. You can read the study here.


If Shakespeare were alive today, he would be thoroughly confused by our tweeting, posting, and selfies. Regardless, he seems to have been a man ahead of his time in his advice: “This above all, to thine own self be true.” If our social media profiles are bubbly and positive, maybe we could infuse some of our day to day life with this optimism. If we are kind in person, but snippy online, perhaps we should picture the person on the other side of the screen. As we take the best of our online selves and our off-line selves, our world as a whole will be a kinder and happier place.


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Take a break from social media, study urges

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen say we’d all be better off if we quit Facebook.


The study, published on the Happiness Research Institute’s website, followed over a thousand people. These individuals were surveyed about their social media use and well-being– a social science term for life satisfaction and mood.

*Almost all (94%) of the study’s participants admitted they checked Facebook daily.

*78% said they spent half an hour or more on Facebook every day

*On a scale of one to ten, 7.6 was the average life satisfaction score


Those who participated in the study were divided into two groups. One group was to continue their usual social media habits. The other group was assigned to completely abstain from Facebook for the duration of the study– one week. At the end of the study, the participants were once again surveyed about their life satisfaction and mood.

*The Facebook users rated their life satisfaction at 7.75, an increase of 2%. The Facebook quitters rated their life satisfaction at 8.12, an increase of 7%. While this increase may seem small, keep in mind the Facebook quitters’ increase in life satisfaction is over THREE TIMES as great as the Facebook users’ increase!

*The Facebook quitters were all more likely to be happy, enthusiastic, decisive, and to enjoy life. They were also less likely to feel worried, lonely, sad, and angry.

*The Facebook quitters reported greater increases in their social activities AND their satisfaction with their social lives. Unsurprisingly, the jump in satisfaction with their social lives is much larger than that in the participants’ social activities. On Facebook, it looks like everyone is partying all the time. In reality, only Facebook is included in every party.

*The Facebook quitters found it easier to concentrate.

*The Facebook users were 55% more likely to feel stressed and 18% less likely to feel present in the moment.

*The Facebook quitters felt they wasted less time

*The Facebook users were 39% more likely to feel they were less happy than their friends


Not ready to give up Facebook? Post more often, try to be happy for friends’ achievements (and take everything with a grain of salt), and try to spend a little less time logged in. The study found that spending a lot of time on Facebook, scrolling and reading rather than actively engaging, and envying others online made the negative effects much worse.


You can read more about the study here  and here.


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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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